02/11/2008 12:00AM

Hey Byrn exceeds expectations

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sunday's featured ninth race was supposed to be a step along the Kentucky Derby trail for a pair of promising 3-year-olds, recent maiden winners Bordeaux Bandit and Jockey Ridge. Instead, the first-level allowance race turned out to be a showcase for the Calder-based Hey Byrn, who overwhelmed the favorites en route to an eye-catching 14 1/2-length victory.

The fact that Hey Byrn won the race did not surprise his trainer, Eddie Plesa Jr., in the least, though he admitted that he did not expect that type of performance.

"I've always loved this horse, but I had to stop on him in September after he would end up getting an infected tooth, of all things," Plesa said.

Hey Byrn started four times at 2, all at his home base at Calder, winning his maiden at second asking and finishing second behind Calder division leader Wise Answer in his stakes debut in the Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion series. Hey Byrn concluded his juvenile campaign finishing fourth, again behind Wise Answer, in the mile-and-70-yard Foolish Pleasure Stakes, a race that yielded three next-out stakes winners.

"He was training very well for this race but was still about a half a work away from where I really wanted him," Plesa said. "Then we catch two horses who were running fives on the Ragozin Sheets, and looked like they could be anything. My horse went in off a 12."

But Hey Byrn proved that the figs don't always matter. With jockey Edgar Prado, coming off career win No. 6,000 an hour earlier, sitting patiently, Hey Byrn tracked the early leaders early. He moved readily to command three wide approaching the stretch and readily increased his advantage over Bordeaux Bandit, who gave chase through the final quarter-mile. Hey Byrn earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 97 for the race.

Plesa, who trains the son of Put It Back for longtime owner Bea Oxenberg, said he is uncertain of what will be next for Hey Byrn.

"The phone has been ringing off the hook since he won, and we've already received a couple of substantial offers," Plesa said Monday. "Bea's not really motivated to sell her horses, but we'll listen. She's also not much on traveling, so we'll probably run him back at Gulfstream. The Fountain of Youth comes up too quick, so we might just wait for the Florida Derby."

The Fountain of Youth is on Feb. 24, and the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 29.

Calder's 2007 2-year-olds a sharp group

Hey Byrn is one of a growing legion of potential Derby prospects from Calder's 2-year-old class of 2007.

Wise Answer, the leader of that group, has been working for his 3-year-old debut, which is expected to come in Saturday's Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The Sam Davis is also the next stop for Smooth Air, winner of the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 5 and one of the 23 3-year-olds selected for Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. Golden Spikes, also based at Calder, will be among the top contenders in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

Another prominent member of Calder's 2-year-old class of '07, Check It Twice, suffered a setback this week on his road to the Derby and was scratched out of Saturday's Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

"He has some filling in his left front leg that we're monitoring at the moment," said Todd Pletcher, who took over Check It Twice's training after the colt was sold privately following his victory in Calder's What a Pleasure Stakes in his 2-year-old finale.

"I was very pleased with the way he'd been working up to the Risen Star," he said, "but now it's probably doubtful we'll be able to make anything with him for the next 30 days.

Pletcher's top 3-year-old prospect at the moment, Monba, continues to progress toward his next start, which is slated for the Fountain of Youth. Monba, who closed at odds of 16-1 in Pool 1 of the Derby Future Wager, worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 at Palm Beach Downs on Monday.

"He went well in what was his final major piece of work for the Fountain of Youth," Pletcher said. "He's had a good break since the Hollywood Futurity, and we're encouraged that he's the kind of horse who looks like he'll stay the distance.

"We just can't afford for him to get as far back over this track as he was in his last start at Hollywood."

Lear's Princess edges toward season debut

Lear's Princess, a Grade 1 winner on dirt at 3, worked five furlongs in 1:03 over the turf at Palm Meadows on Monday in preparation for her 2008 debut in Saturday's Endeavour Stakes on the turf at Tampa Bay Downs. Lear's Princess, who won her only two previous grass starts, has not run since finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Other prominent workers at Palm Meadows on Monday were Chelokee (five furlongs in 1:00.80), Breeders' Cup Mile winner Kip Deville (four furlongs in 54 seconds), and Nobiz Like Shobiz (three furlongs in 38).

* At Gulfstream, Face the Cat worked four furlongs in 50 seconds on Monday. Face the Cat has won both his starts at 3 and is being pointed to the Fountain of Youth by trainer Helen Pitts.