03/01/2008 1:00AM

Ex-claimer takes Kilroe Mile


ARCADIA, Calif. - Ever a Friend, claimed for $62,500 at Hollywood Park in December, won his graded stakes debut in Saturday's $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita.

The second-longest shot in a field of six, Ever a Friend burst clear in early stretch to win the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile by 3 3/4 lengths. Ridden by Tyler Baze, Ever a Friend ($20.60) ran a mile on firm turf in 1:33.37.

Baze kept Ever a Friend near the front throughout, closely tracking Storm Military who set an early pace of 23.47 and 47.58 seconds. Racing outside of the leader, Ever a Friend moved closer on the final turn and took the lead turning for home.

Artiste Royale, making his first start since finishing eighth in the Japan Cup last November, finished second, a neck in front of War Monger, the even-money favorite. Out of Control and Storm Military finished in a dead heat for fourth, followed by Mr Napper Tandy.

Ever a Friend was 5-2 in the early betting for the Kilroe, and drifted up to 9-1 by post time. The race was run in light rain on a cool afternoon.

Ever a Friend, a 5-year-old Crafty Prospector gelding, was claimed by Steve and Jeff Ustin and Dan Capen and trainer Mike Mitchell in December out of a third-place finish in an optional claimer. Ever a Friend was entered to be claimed in that race.

Ever a Friend has won 5 of 18 starts and $378,668.