12/13/2004 12:00AM

First look at next Ky. Derby

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Benoit & Associates
Fusaichi Samurai, shown winning his maiden at Hollywood Park, has already attracted plenty of future book action for the 2005 Kentucky Derby.

NEW YORK - There will be significant attention on Saturday's Hollywood Futurity, and not just because the outcome of the impending battle between undefeated Declan's Moon, Breeders' Cup Juvenile upsetter Wilko, and Champagne Stakes winner Proud Accolade will go a long way toward determining the champion 2-year-old male of 2004. People will be watching the Hollywood Futurity for a sign that any one of this year's prominent 2-year-olds has what it takes to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby.

Recent history tells us that important stakes races like the Hollywood Futurity are not the best places to look for a successful Kentucky Derby candidate. Only three of the last 10 Kentucky Derby winners won a graded stakes at age 2, and you won't find any of them among the last six Derby winners. The three are Real Quiet, the 1998 winner who won the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity at 2; 1997 winner Silver Charm, who won the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity at 2; and 1995 winner Thunder Gulch, who won the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes at 2. Two of the last 10 Kentucky Derby winners had earned only their maiden victory at 2: Charismatic, the 1999 winner, and Grindstone, who won in 1996. And two of the last 10 Derby winners did not earn their maiden victory until they turned 3: 2001 winner Monarchos and 2000 winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

This speaks to an increasing disconnect between the form of 2-year-old and 3-year-old male horses, a topic I have written about before. What it also says is that if you have started to think about the 2005 Kentucky Derby, you would do just as well, if not better, to look beyond the obvious. In that spirit, I have compiled a list of 2-year-olds who for the most part are operating below the radar but who have shown real flashes of ability and just might turn out to be interesting 3-year-olds.

Kirkendahl: He is still flying below the radar, but probably not for much longer. He won his first two career starts, for trainer Ted West, both at the current Hollywood meet. In his most recent overwhelming optional claimer/allowance score, he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99, which represented a 21-point improvement over his maiden victory. He is by Menifee, who should have won the 1999 Derby.

Fusaichi Samurai: Some may argue that he doesn't belong on this list because he has already received a ton of support in 2005 Kentucky Derby future book betting in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, this $4.5 million 2-year-old in training purchase, sired by Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, only made his career debut Saturday at Hollywood. He was impressive, scoring decisively while not being fully cranked up, and still completed 6 1/2 furlongs under a firm pull from his rider in a quick 1:15.54, good for a Beyer of 92.

Premium Tap: Had trouble leaving the gate in his first two career starts at Belmont, but put it all together at Aqueduct in his third start. He buried maidens by nine lengths, running fast enough to earn a Beyer of 92, and did so at six furlongs, which, being a son of Pleasant Tap, is probably considerably shorter than his best trip. He is trained by John Kimmel, who likely learned plenty about how to handle a prominent 3-year-old this year with Florida Derby winner Friends Lake.

Patriot Act: He is still a maiden after four starts, but ran winning races in two of those outings. He was beaten a half-length by Sun King in a strong maiden race at Belmont (93 Beyer) when Sun King, who came back to be third in both the Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile, got first run on him. Patriot Act then rallied wide from well back at Keeneland to be second in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity. Has a beautiful pedigree, being by A.P. Indy from the stakes winner Classic Value, who threw the good turf stakes winner Class Kris.

Survivalist: Got his first win in a gallop going a mile at Belmont in his second of two starts, earning a Beyer of 84, which is better than his better-known stablemate Defer, winner of the Laurel Futurity, has earned so far. Another with an impeccable pedigree, he is by Danzig, from a full sister to Seeking the Gold.

Deputy Indy: Another son of A.P. Indy, from a stakes-producing Deputy Minister mare, which has classic distance ability written all over it. He won his only start, that coming at Aqueduct at seven furlongs, a distance than can be tricky for a firster. But, he won decisively, and two horses who finished behind him came back to win their next starts.

Don't Get Mad: Came from downtown to win his first two career starts sprinting, both at the Churchill fall meet, and improved from an 84 to a 90 Beyer in his second start. By Donn Handicap winner Stephen Got Even, he is from a dam who is a half-sister to Patriot Act.

Biloxi Palace: Narrowly missed in his debut at Saratoga, was flat when he came back two months later at Aqueduct, but emerged in the mud at Fair Grounds third time out in a maiden romp that was good enough for a 92 Beyer. He is by the late, great Seattle Slew, from a half-sister to Derby winner Real Quiet.