11/14/2003 12:00AM

Excessivepleasure sticks with own


To most, the math does not make sense. Excessivepleasure, a Southern California-based colt who won the $400,000 Indiana Derby in his last start, has shipped halfway across the country to run for $150,000 in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby on Sunday.

But racing is not always about finance. It's about being disciplined enough to choose the proper race for a horse to ensure his longevity, and that appears to be the route owners Lee and Ty Leatherman and trainer Doug O'Neill are taking with Excessivepleasure.

"We're just trying to keep him against 3-year-olds only as long as we can," said O'Neill. "We've had that attitude all year, and it's worked out well."

Excessivepleasure has won three derbies - The WinStar Derby at Sunland Park, the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows, and the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park - and will be odds-on to win the Oklahoma Derby, the richest race of the meet at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

In his last start, Excessivepleasure was a dynamic front-running winner of the Grade 3 Indiana Derby, defeating a field that included the Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.

O'Neill called the Leathermans "gracious" for their sportsmanship, which includes doling out the cash to fly Excessivepleasure from Hollywood Park to Oklahoma City so the horse could run Sunday.

The Oklahoma Derby was moved from August to November this year, and with its later date it becomes the last main-track graded derby in the nation. To draw a horse like Excessivepleasure was a coup for Remington. The colt is one of the most exciting 3-year-olds in the nation, and he could have been competitive in a lot of other races around the country.

"I know what kind of horse we've drawn in the four derbies I've been involved with here, and he ranks with the best we've been able to get to come our way," said Fred Hutton, racing secretary at Remington.

Excessivepleasure will have history on his side Sunday. Favorites have won five of the last six runnings of the Oklahoma Derby, and horses based in Southern California have captured four of the last seven runnings of the race.

No clear-cut favorite

Unlike the Oklahoma Derby, which drew a standout in Excessivepleasure, there are lots of choices in the $35,000 Remington Green, which also will be run Sunday.

Among the 12 horses entered in the 1 1/16-mile turf race are recent stakes winners April's Lucky Boy, Maysville Slew, Zee Oh Six, and Dance and Dazzle.

Favoritism could lie with one of those horses, or with Doc D, who was an allowance winner last out at Keeneland, or Rockchalk Jayhawk, who is a stakes winner at Remington.

Pick a state, any state

From a breeding standpoint, the Oklahoma Derby drew a cross section of horses from across the country. None of the six horses comes from the same program.

Excessivepleasure was bred in California; Kool Humor in New Jersey; Comic Truth in Florida; Morning Merry in Kansas; Tap Tap in Oklahoma; and Grayglen in Nebraska.

Tap Tap, the local representative in the race, will attempt to give his trainer, Donnie Von Hemel, a third win in the Oklahoma Derby. Von Hemel won the first running in 1989 with Clever Trevor and also took the 1991 edition with Queen's Gray Bee.

Tap Tap, a half-brother to top regional sprinter That Tat, is the only horse in the Oklahoma Derby field with a win over the local main track. He was a 12 3/4-length winner of a 1 1/16-mile allowance on Oct. 9.

* The forecast for Sunday is sunny skies and a high of 67 degrees in Oklahoma City.