07/19/2003 11:00PM

Evolving Tactics wins American Derby

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Evolving Tactics, the even-money favorite, gamely held off a belated run by Californian to post a neck victory Sunday in the Grade 2, $250,000 American Derby at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Ill.

Patrick Smullen was aboard Evolving Tactics, an Irish-bred colt by Machiavellian. Making his U.S. debut for Moyglare Stud and trainer Dermot Weld, Evolving Tactics got a great tracking trip from just behind front-running Gato Gato Gato before powering to the front after turning for home.

British-bred Californian, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, came charging after Evolving Tactics but was too late. "I delivered my challenge as soon as we straightened up in the stretch, and he went away and won quite well," said Smullen.

Evolving Tactics paid $4 after finishing 1 3/16 miles in 1:59.04 over a course rated good. Scottago finished third, followed by Gato Gato Gato and Rapid Proof. Bim's Baby Bun and G.W.'s Skippie were early scratches.

The American Derby is the second leg of the Mid-America Triple, which ends Aug. 16 with the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes. Evolving Tactics will run back in the Secretariat, said Weld, who also revealed that his star 3-year-old filly, Dimitrova, will try older fillies and mares in the Grade 1 Beverly D. the same day.