12/20/2004 12:00AM

Finally, a trouble-free trip

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Skip Smith
After his easy 8 1/2-length win in the Fred Hooper, Pies Prospect's long-range goal will be the Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 5.

MIAMI - In his last few starts, Pies Prospect had no luck at all. In last Saturday's $100,000 at Calder, he didn't need any.

Pies Prospect sat a perfect trip behind the pacesetting Hear No Evil, easily moved to command when given his head by jockey Edgar Prado entering the stretch, then drew off with authority through the final furlong en route to an easy 8 1/2-length victory over Twilight Road. He earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure.

"That really was impressive the way he ran on Saturday, wasn't it?" Zito said. "I was really happy to see him win like that considering the bad luck he's had in his last couple of starts.

"He got hung out wide in the Lone Star Derby or he would have been right there at the end. The same thing happened in the Clark. He had the 9 post, never got over but never threw in the towel. My other horse [Seek Gold] ran second in the race behind Saint Liam, but with any luck Pies Prospect might have been the one finishing second in that race."

Zito pointed out that Pies Prospect had already proven he was a "pretty good horse," having beaten Eddington in the Pegasus Handicap at The Meadowlands.

"But I think this kind of win will really help him a lot and give him a big confidence boost," he said.

Zito, who is pointing his undefeated New York-bred Commentator for the Hal's Hope Handicap and possibly the Donn Handicap during the early stages of the Gulfstream meeting, said the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap at 1 3/16 miles on March 5 might turn out to be Pies Prospect's next major goal.

"His family tends to get better as they get older and go longer, so I might just handle him with care over the next couple of months and look at the Gulfstream Park Handicap for his main objective down here this winter," Zito said.

Trio of local runners-up

All four stakes on the Grand Slam II program were won by out of town runners. Along with Pies Prospect, Arvada captured the Grade 2 La Prevoyante for trainer Bobby Frankel, Dreadnaught won the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight for Tommy Voss, and Medallist registered an easy victory in the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap for trainer Allen Jerkens.

The best performances by Florida-based horses were seconds by Paradise Dancer in the Noe, Demeteor in the McKnight, and Twilight Road in the Hooper.

Where We Left Off tops Deauville

Where We Left Off, whose only previous visit to Calder resulted in a victory in the London Lil Stakes here in November 2003, returns as the likely favorite in Wednesday's $40,000 Deauville Stakes.

Where We Left Off has won 7 of 13 career starts, including the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Park earlier this season. She was also second, beaten a half-length by Humaita, in a division of Saratoga's Glens Falls Handicap. Humaita was narrowly defeated by Arvada in the La Prevoyante.

Where We Left Off won her local debut a year ago at the direct expense of Formal Miss and will again have that rival as her chief foe in the Deauville. Formal Miss is looking to rebound from a dull performance in the Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap.

Trainer Michael Dickinson's Far Afield, scratched from last Friday's Golden Pond Stakes when the race was taken off the grass, will get a class test facing graded stakes-caliber competition while making only her fourth career start in the Deauville. Far Afield got a feel for the local course when open-galloping over the grass on Monday morning.

Cleary keeps raising funds

Robin Cleary's contribution to the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis grew to more than $600,000 after she personally helped raise more than $87,000 in contributions in 2004.

Cleary, who was left paralyzed in a training accident here in 1996, has solicited contributions from members of the south Florida racing community for the past seven years. Calder Race Course is also a regular contributor to the worthy cause. Track president Ken Dunn presented Cleary and Marc Buoniconti with a check for $25,000 in the winner's circle following Saturday's fourth race.

"I never get tired of doing this," said Cleary, whose husband, Brian, is a trainer stabled at Calder. "Research is really moving in the right direction and it's getting very exciting because I think scientists are on the verge of some big breakthroughs in the fight to find a cure for paralysis."