06/17/2004 11:00PM

Gruff already has eyes for Iowa Derby

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Gruff might try to pull a Touch Tone for owner Tom Durant. Unbeaten in two career starts, Gruff is being considered for the $250,000 Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on July 2.

Touch Tone won that race in 2001 in just his fourth career start. Like Touch Tone, Gruff has won his first two starts, both at Lone Star Park near Dallas.

Gruff won his debut over six furlongs May 7, then came back and won around two turns on turf May 23. In both of his races, he put in strong closing bids under jockey Casey Lambert.

Gruff is a son of Good and Tough and is a half-brother to Junior Deputy, a two-time stakes winner of more than $185,000.

"He's a pro," said Jack Bruner, who trains Gruff. "He's not a hard horse to handle. He's very professional, and he likes what he does."

Gruff raced on turf last time simply because no two-turn race on dirt was available for him, said Bruner. He would move back to dirt for the Iowa Derby. Bruner said a final decision on the Iowa Derby will come after Gruff works back at his base at Lone Star.

Touch Tone won three of eight starts in his career and $632,850.

Bruner said Most Feared, another stakes winner raced by Durant, has been turned out for some vacation time. One of Most Feared's biggest wins came in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity at Arlington Park.

Derby tops Remington Stakes

The Grade 3, $150,000 Oklahoma Derby will be run Nov. 21. A 1 1/8-mile race, the Oklahoma Derby is one of 20 stakes worth more than $1 million this season at Remington Park in Oklahoma City. The track's Thoroughbred meet will run 65 days, from Aug. 6 to Dec. 5.

This year, the Oklahoma Derby undercard will include the $75,000 Remington MEC Mile for 2-year-olds.

Other top races during the season include the $125,000 DeBartolo Memorial Breeders' Cup at 1 1/8 miles on turf Sept. 6, and Oklahoma Classics Day on Sept. 25. During the Classics program, six stakes for eligible Oklahoma-breds will be decided. Together, the races are worth close to $300,000.

Open company for Placid Star

Placid Star, who has compiled a 6-for-7 career record while racing exclusively in Louisiana-bred company, will likely make her next start in one of two open company races at Louisiana Downs, said her trainer, Sam David Jr.

The $50,000 Lorelei Stakes for 3-year-old fillies June 27 and an overnight stakes early next month are the two races under consideration. Later in the meet, Placid Star will be pointed for the $70,000 Elge Raspberry for Louisiana-breds Aug. 7.

Placid Star has won four stakes and has earned $241,000. She is one of two exciting 3-year-old fillies seen from David this meet at Louisiana Downs. Merry Me in Spring improved her record to 2 for 2 when she won her two-turn debut at the track Thursday.

David said there are no plans to rush Merry Me in Spring into stakes company. "We want to ease her into it," he said.

David says he is looking for Merry Me in Spring to have a future on turf, since she has pedigree for the surface. She is a daughter of Wekiva Springs and out of five-time stakes winner Merry Deputy.

There Goes Rocket, another 3-year-old trained by David, was scheduled to return to Louisiana Downs on Friday after getting some time off. He is a multiple stakes winner for Frank Fletcher.

* Delta Downs in Vinton, La., has opened a new off-track betting center within its grandstand. It is located on the track level. The seating area is open, and there are also two bars, big-screen televisions, and a glass-enclosed non-smoking area.

* Apprentice Amanda Crandall was scheduled to ride at Lone Star on Friday night after avoiding serious injuries Thursday night, when she was thrown from Miskip, her mount in the third race. Crandall had stitches placed in her lip, but is in good health. Crandall is tied for ninth in the standings at Lone Star.

* Oncearoundtwice, a recent allowance winner at Lone Star, worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 on Friday. Trainer John Locke said Oncearoundtwice, who placed second in two $100,000 turf stakes last year, has been nominated to the $50,000 Excalibur at Louisiana Downs on June 26. That race is the 3-year-old turf counterpart of the track's $50,000 Chapel Belle for fillies, which Locke won earlier in the meet with Topango.

* Sam Houston will run 16 trials for Quarter Horses on Sunday and as a result has moved first post up to 4 p.m.