08/09/2003 12:00AM

Dashboard Drummer validates purchase

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Allen Iwinski did his best Red Auerbach impression, savoring a victory cigar in the Monmouth Park winner's circle Saturday afternoon following the win by Dashboard Drummer in the Grade 3, $100,000 Sapling Stakes.

The trainer had much to celebrate.

Dashboard Drummer had captured Monmouth's premier 2-year-old stakes race only moments earlier. The triumph also vindicated Iwinski's decision to authorize a $200,000 purchase of the gelding following two impressive wins at Prairie Meadows.

"To be honest, I wasn't that high on him when I looked at him," Iwinski said of the Oklahoma-bred son of Alamocitos. "After I watched him train, I got pretty excited."

The new owners, which include Len Friedman of the Ragozin speed sheets, were already excited by the numbers Dashboard Drummer posted in Iowa.

With Iwinski on board, the purchase from Paulette and Bob Pogue went through.

His first start for the new barn was a smashing success as Dashboard Drummer ($10.80) rallied from far back on the speed-favoring sloppy track to win by 2 1/2 lengths over Deputy Storm, the 7-10 favorite.

A killer early pace took a tool on Deputy Storm, the Tyro Stakes winner from the red-hot Todd Pletcher barn. Deputy Storm ran out of steam after setting fractions of 21.31 seconds and 43.82.

As he weakened in the lane, Dashboard Drummer gathered momentum down the center of the track under rider Jose Ferrer.

"Turning for home, he switched leads and mowed them down," Ferrer said. "I knew we'd be coming late and they were going too fast for 2-year-olds going six furlongs for the first time."

Dashboard Drummer completed the distance in 1:10.84.

The next step for Dashboard Drummer could be an even more ambitious one - the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 30.