05/01/2003 11:00PM

Derby runner profile: Buddy Gil

Email

STRENGTHS: Triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in his last three races stamp Buddy Gil as the leading California contender. A stalker, he will get the jump on the deep closers and there are plenty of them. His stakes experience as a 2-year-old is a plus. He's gutty, too, something you can't put a number on. Rider Gary Stevens has won this race three times.

WEAKNESSES: He's no cinch to get the Derby distance. His sire Eastern Echo went 3 for 3 but all in sprints. Dam went 1-1-1 in 12 starts, again, all in sprints. His trainer Jeff Mullins has saddled only one Derby starter - Lusty Latin, who ran 15th last year. A gelding hasn't won the Kentucky Derby since 1929, although geldings Best Pal and Prairie Bayou finished second in 1991 and 1993.

STRATEGY: Get position early and try to save some ground - and have a clear path turning for home. This stalker might have quite a few runners in front of him so getting a good trip is key.

BETTING VALUE: No sure thing. Empire Maker, Ten Most Wanted, and Peace Rules figure to be in front of him in the wagering, but if any of those don't make the starting gate then his price and his value will suffer.

PEDIGREE PROFILE

SIRE LINE: After winning all three starts at 2, including the 1990 Futurity Stakes, Eastern Echo was set for stardom, but was injured and never raced again. By 1967 Horse of the Year Damascus (third in the 1967 Derby), and from the tail-female line of La Troienne, Eastern Echo had all the tools to be a major stallion. Among his stakes winners is one of last year's promising freshman stallions, Swiss Yodeler, but Eastern Echo is considered a disappointment at stud considering his regal pedigree and performance as a racehorse.

FEMALE FAMILY: Utah-bred Really Rising placed in a minor stakes at Golden Gate Fields, and second dam Rising Writer won a restricted stakes. Buddy Gil's fifth dam, Real Sweet Deal, won the 1964 Cinderella Stakes and was stakes-placed in multiple races, including the Hollywood Lassie, Nursery, and Del Mar Debutante.

PEDIGREE PATTERN: With male influences Eastern Echo, For Really, Staff Writer, and Rising Market, Buddy Gil has already outrun his pedigree by winning the Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles, but the game overachiever should find 1 1/4 miles a furlong too far.

- Pedigree profile by Lauren Stich