05/06/2010 11:00PM

Distance the question for Henshin Hero


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - None of the top choices in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lone Star Derby are proven around two turns, with the biggest question marks surrounding probable favorite Henshin Hero. He has never raced beyond six furlongs and has a pedigree slanted toward sprinting. But if ever the conditions were ripe for him to get a route of ground, it is Saturday.

Henshin Hero will face just five others in the Lone Star Derby, a 1 1/16-mile race that failed to draw a stakes winner. And he goes for the hottest barn at the track as his trainer, Bret Calhoun, is winning with 48 percent of his starters. Henshin Hero also is the winningest member of the field, with a 3-for-5 record, and he looks like the field's dominant speed.

"He's obviously a fast horse," Calhoun said of Henshin Hero, who earned Beyer Speed Figures of 94 for a pair of allowance wins this winter at Oaklawn. "He has a very high cruising speed. He'll probably be laying down some pretty strong fractions. He's not going to gallop around there."

The Lone Star Derby will share a card with two $100,000 divisions of the Texas Stallion Stakes for 3-year-olds. The chief threats to Henshin Hero are Game On Dude, who will attempt to give trainer Bob Baffert a fourth win in the Lone Star Derby, and Crider, an allowance winner for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Henshin Hero had been set to make his two-turn debut last month, but the race his connections targeted, the $75,000 Northern Spur for 3-year-olds at a mile at Oaklawn, did not fill.

"It was a setback as far as not getting a gauge on his two-turn ability," Calhoun said.

But the barn moved forward, sending Henshin Hero to Keeneland, where he was second in a quick turf sprint allowance April 16. The Lone Star Derby will be his stakes debut, and he will break from post 5 under Bobby Walker Jr.

The Lone Star Derby is lacking depth compared to past runnings, which is due in part to the race's purse being cut in half this year.

The field is rounded out by Thatlleaveamark, the race's lone two-turn winner, which came in a $20,000 conditioned claiming score; Wando Redd, a maiden special weight winner at Evangeline; and Gilded Woodman, a maiden who debuted April 30.