04/10/2004 12:00AM

Friends Lake works at Payson

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While Kentucky Derby hopefuls battled in important prep races on three separate fronts Saturday, Florida Derby winner Friends Lake remained at his winter home at Payson Park where he worked five furlongs in 1:04.60 Saturday morning.

Trainer John Kimmel decided to train Friends Lake into the Kentucky Derby following his March 13 victory in the $1 million Florida Derby, and thus far is pleased at the way his colt has responded.

"The track was on the wet side here this morning. It was very tough and demanding," said Kimmel. "He worked very evenly, and the thing I liked best was that when he came back he wasn't even blowing hard. He got a good blow out of it but didn't do anything to make me think he

hasn't retained his fitness."

Kimmel will breeze Friends Lake once more at Payson next Saturday morning before shipping to Kentucky, where the New York-bred will have one final work a week prior to the Derby.

"He'll go five furlongs by himself and gallop out seven-eighths here next Saturday," said Kimmel. "Right now we're right on target where we need to be."