04/05/2002 12:00AM

Derby isn't part of Cashel Castle's agenda

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - There's an unbeaten horse in the Lafayette Stakes. Big deal. Unbeaten horses have won the race many times.

Yet here's the catch: From 1937 through 1981, the Lafayette was for 2-year-olds in the spring, which hardly gave anyone time to get beat. But since 1982, when Keeneland made the race for 3-year-olds, rare indeed has been the unbeaten racehorse to pass the Lafayette entry box.

That's why the presence of Cashel Castle in Sunday's 65th running of the $100,000 Lafayette is, in fact, a pretty big deal. From four career starts, Cashel Castle has never even been tested, and with Pat Day getting the mount from trainer Chris Block, surely he will be a solid favorite over seven other 3-year-olds.

Bred and owned by Barry and Sandra Buchholz of southern Georgia, Cashel Castle has won his four races by a combined 24 3/4 lengths. Every time, he rallied from just a few lengths off the pace to blow past his opposition and coast to victory.

"He is pretty talented," said Block. "The thing is, he's got a pretty good mind and accepts everything I've asked him to do. He's made my job easy."

With all of his previous starts having been at six furlongs, the additional furlong of the Grade 3 Lafayette presents a new wrinkle for Cashel Castle, but Block is confident the Silver Ghost colt will turn in another big effort.

"He's proven he's very rateable, which has been a huge asset," he said. "He handles about any situation."

Block said he harbors no grand Derby-like visions for Cashel Castle; the one-mile Derby Trial on April 27 is about as far as he is allowing himself to dream. "His pedigree is lacking on the bottom side," said Block, referring to the mare, Desviacion, being by the speedy Unreal Zeal. "We're going to let him kind of build into longer distances. We want to be fair to the horse and ourselves."

If Cashel Castle is outrun, it probably will be by Sky Terrace, who shortens back after abandoning the Derby trail in Louisiana; Storm Commander, upset winner of the Hansel at Turfway in his last start; or Axis, who exits two graded stakes at Gulfstream.

Storm Commander and Axis scratched from a second-level allowance race Friday to run in the Lafayette.

The other starters are Governor Hickel, Laffit, Cicero Grimes, and Super Striker.

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