10/17/2003 11:00PM

Derby takes turn for worse

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Less than two months after Storming Home turned right at the finish of the Arlington Million, the bizarre returned to turf stakes racing in Chicago. Blue Blood Boot led into the stretch of the $250,000 Hawthorne Derby on Saturday, but he turned left, breaking through the inner rail, and finished without jockey Larry Sterling and on the wrong side of the fence.

Blue Blood Boot and Sterling were not seriously injured, but the incident opened a path for False Promises, who came through an opening to wear down Megoman in the final furlong. Under Carlos Marquez, the king of the Hawthorne turf, False Promises won by a length. Megoman finished a length in front of longshot Beau Classic. Lismore Knight, the 3-2 favorite, ran evenly and finished fifth.

False Promises paid $17 to win, even though he had run an impressive race winning an allowance at the end of the Arlington meet. The first horse owned by David Maracich, False Promises ran nine furlongs on firm turf in 1:48.48, while winning his third straight start.

"I had been pointing him to this race all summer," said trainer Tony Granitz.

False Promises almost didn't make it. A month ago, False Promises suffered a bad case of colic and nearly died. But he came through the episode, and has continued his rapid progression.

Saturday, he settled in near the back of the field as Blue Blood Boot carved out splits of 23.43 seconds for a quarter-mile and 47.55 for a half-mile. Marquez kept False Promises down at the rail, where he raced in the third tier of horses, and waited for a spot. It came just as Blue Blood Boot ran through the fence, and as Megoman drifted out in the late going. False Promises rallied on the inside to win.

"It's a long stretch," said Marquez, who has dominated the grass course so far this meet. "If you have the horse and you can wait a little bit longer, it helps."

Sterling and his mount walked off the racetrack shaken but fine. Sterling wasn't certain why Blue Blood Boot made the sudden turn.

"It might have been some stuff out in the infield," Sterling said. "It wasn't the stick. I hadn't even moved on him."