05/01/2003 11:00PM

Derby runner profile: Peace Rules

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STRENGTHS: There are plenty of them. Not only does he have current form, but that form took him to victory in two of the key Derby preps: the Louisiana Derby and the Blue Grass. In each race he was quite impressive, pulling clear to win by more than two lengths in the Louisiana Derby and almost four in the Blue Grass. He has tactical speed, push-button acceleration, and heart - key ingredients for most any Derby win.

While his trainer, Bobby Frankel, has yet to win the Derby, there is no denying he's one of the best trainers of the last 20 years. It seems only a matter of time and opportunity before he gets the coveted roses.

WEAKNESSES: Not since Sunny's Halo in 1983 has a horse won the Derby off just two preps, but that's what Peace Rules is trying to do. This almost certainly wasn't by design. Frankel probably wasn't thinking about the Kentucky Derby when he brought him back in the Louisiana Derby - it just looked like a good spot for this turf stakes winner to give dirt another whirl. And lo and behold, he finds himself one of the Derby favorites.

There's also a question about pedigree, not so much with his sire, Jules (by Derby runner-up Forty Niner), but with his dam, Hold to Fashion, as she sports primarily a sprinter-miler pedigree.

STRATEGY: His handiness should allow rider Edgar Prado to place him anywhere. With the quick Indian Express likely going out front and Scrimshaw in hot pursuit, he figures to fall into a great tracking trip.

VALUE: Despite all the positives, most have been focusing on his more-ballyhooed stablemate, Empire Maker. Some didn't like the way he came home in the Blue Grass (though he was pulling away) and weren't happy about his 1:14-and-change work last week. That may mean his odds could creep up into the 10-1 range, certainly great odds on a horse who won two of the most important Derby preps.

PEDIGREE PROFILE

SIRE LINE: Jules, a stakes winner at 2 and 3, is from the immediate female family that produced Northern Dancer, Danehill and Machiavellian, and he is the best-bred son of Forty Niner at stud. But after mediocre crops by modest books of mares, he was exported to Brazil. Peace Rules is, by far, Jules's best runner in the United States. Forty Niner finished a fast-closing second to Winning Colors in the 1988 Derby and his son Editor's Note, won the 1996 Belmont.

FEMALE FAMILY: Hold to Fashion won twice from

26 starts, and Peace Rules is her only stakes winner from seven foals. Peace Rules's second dam, Toga Toga, was a restricted stakes winner, and his fifth dam is a half-sister to Berlo, 1960 champion 3-year-old filly.

PEDIGREE PATTERN: A pedigree full of speed influences (Jules, Hold Your Peace, and Greek Answer). It is unlikely that Peace Rules will be as brilliant at 1 1/4 miles as he has been at nine furlongs, especially with Indian Express and Funny Cide joining him early.

- Pedigree profile by Lauren Stich