04/07/2004 11:00PM

Del Mar Show aims for millionaire status


Del Mar Show and Quest Star are the horses to beat in Saturday night's $200,000 Connally Breeders' Cup Turf Handicap at Sam Houston Race Park, while the ones to fear are Warleigh and Skate Away.

The Connally will be run over 1 1/8 miles on turf and it has drawn 11 older horses, including 119-pound highweight Better Talk Now. The race is Sam Houston's premier event, and it runs on the last day of the meet.

The $40,000 Jersey Lilly for fillies and mares and the $40,000 Turf Cup Sprint at five furlongs will support the Connally.

Del Mar Show would become a millionaire with a win Saturday. He comes into the Connally on the heels of a sharp allowance win at Gulfstream Park. Del Mar Show stalked the pace in that one-mile turf race and went to win by a length. He earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure, the top last-race number among starters in the Connally.

Overall, Del Mar Show has won 11 of 28 starts and earned $909,750. The first-place check of $120,000 on Saturday night would propel him to millionaire status for his owner, Allen E. Paulson Living Trust, and his trainer, Bill Mott. Cornelio Velasquez, who will ride Purge in the $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday, will fly to Houston after that race in order to ride Del Mar Show.

Warleigh is a horse Del Mar Show may have to catch. He strung together five front-running wins from June through October of last year, including a romp in the $100,000 Louisiana Downs Handicap, in which he earned a career-best 108 Beyer Speed Figure.

In the Connally, Warleigh will be making his first start since finishing an uncharacteristic sixth in the $150,000 Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup. Mystery Giver won that race and returned in his next start to win the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz. Warleigh worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:13 on March 22.

"He'd run hard for a while, so we freshened him up, and I like how he's training," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Warleigh for Ro Parra. "I think the Houston course will suit him."

Jeremy Beasley, the leading rider at Sam Houston, has the mount Saturday.

Skate Away also seems set to fire big. In his last start he was third in the Muniz. He has stepped up his game since removing blinkers in January. In his first start without them, Skate Away won the $60,000 Colonel Power Handicap by a neck over Warleigh. He has gone on to place in three more stakes, and in each of his last four starts has earned triple-digit Beyers.

Also in Skate Away's favor is a win over the course at Sam Houston. He accomplished that last November in the $35,000 Buffalo Bayou. Gerard Melancon, who won the Connally in 1998 aboard Chorwon, has the mount for trainer Jeff Trosclair.

Quest Star will be turning back in distance from 1 1/2 miles - the distance of his victory in the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park in his last start March 20. He has won six races and $687,535. Pat Day, who will ride Shadowland in the Arkansas Derby on Saturday, will be in Houston to ride Quest Star for trainer Elliott Walden.

As for highweight Better Talk Now, he will be making his first since winning the Grade 2 Knickerbocker against Del Mar Show on Nov. 1. For his return, he shows a nice series of works. Rene Douglas has the mount for trainer Graham Motion.

Others in the field include Gentleman JJ, who could give trainer Andrew Leggio his fourth straight win in the Connally. He won the race the past three years with Candid Glen.

* Gold Storm, whose lone career defeat was to eventual Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat in last year's Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint, makes his turf debut in the Turf Sprint Cup. He has won 4 of 5 starts.

* Sound of Gold will be attempting to win her third straight start in the Jersey Lilly. The chief threat to her streak appears to be Tiva's Little Sis, who in her last start won an optional claimer at Fair Grounds, for Asmussen. Paul Pearson trains Sound of Gold and he has given the mount to John Jacinto.

* The forecast for Saturday calls for the possibility of thunderstorms and a high temperature in the mid-80's.