09/23/2010 2:02PM

Hurricane Ike key to Super Derby

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Barbara D. Livingston
Hurricane Ike, winner of the Derby Trial, is the 9-5 favorite for the Grade 2 Super Derby.

BOSSIER CITY, La. – There are two handicapping roads to go down in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby, and both require taking a stance on morning-line favorite Hurricane Ike. He is the controlling speed in the 1 1/8-mile race, but he has never won beyond a mile or at two turns. For those who believe Hurricane Ike can get the trip, the Super Derby is an easy read. But for dissenters, there are several options in the six-horse field Saturday.

Golden Moka is an undefeated stakes winner stepping up in class off a clear win in the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. Distorted Economy is a Neil Drysdale-trained Southern California shipper making his first start on dirt. Apart is a stakes winner over the main track at Louisiana Downs and is blossoming right now for the same connections as top handicap horse Blame. The field is rounded out by maiden winners Ricky Tick and Arctic Comet.

The Super Derby is the richest race of the meet that closes this weekend and it anchors a program of eight stakes worth more than $1 million. It also is part of a $100,000-guaranteed pick four that runs from races 9-12. The all-stakes sequence also includes the $100,000 Sunday Silence for 2-year-olds in which Aces N Kings will attempt to improve his record to 6 for 6.

Hurricane Ike, a son of Arkansas Derby winner Graeme Hall who is based in Southern California with trainer john Sadler, was a front-running winner of the Grade 3 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs in April. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101 for the mile race run at one-turn and on Saturday will be trying two turns for just the second time in his career. In his first attempt, he finished 11th last fall in the Grade 1 Breeders Futurity at Keeneland.

“We know he can run a mile, the mile and an eighth will be a little bit of a test,” Sadler said. “When he ran at Keeneland as a 2-year-old, he just got jumbled up in the first turn, and the race didn’t really tell us anything.

“What he has shown is that he is better on dirt. He ran very well in New York [when second in the Grade 3 Bay Shore]. We took him down to Kentucky, and he won the Derby Trial, and after that the plan was to go to the Preakness. But right before the Preakness, he was off behind. We couldn’t go in the Preakness, so we brought him home, rested him up a little bit, and went out to Saratoga.”

Hurricane Ike ran fourth to top-class sprinter Discreetly Mine in last month’s Grade 1 King’s Bishop.

“He broke a step slow,” Sadler said. “I think he could have been second with a good break. I don’t think he would have beaten Discretely Mine. He ran well, and now’s the time to try him in another one. I hope he handles the mile and an eighth.”

Sadler said with a good performance, Hurricane Ike could advance to a race like the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill. Joel Rosario has the mount Saturday.

Undefeated Golden Moka could get a tracking trip behind Hurricane Ike. He won three straight sprint races in Panama before stretching out to two turns and winning the $500,000 Prince of Wales for Canadian-breds at Fort Erie on July 25. The race came in his first start for Woodbine-based trainer Brian Lynch.

“He showed me that he’s a very rateable horse,” Lynch said. “A horse went with him on the lead, he relaxed on the inside and let him go, then showed up when the running started.

“He’s a real laid-back, cool dude. If he was a guy, I’d like to hang out with him.”

Fort Erie-based Anthony Stephen retains the mount.

Distorted Economy enters the Super Derby off a pair of tough beats at Del Mar. He missed by a nose in a $40,000 optional claiming race Aug. 7, then was third by a half-length in the $100,000 El Cajon at a mile Sept. 3.

“We feel with a little different scenario he could have won the last two races,” Drysdale said. “We feel he ran winning races.”

Drysdale is changing things up and putting Distorted Economy on dirt. The horse is by Distorted Humor, the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and from the Grade 2-winning mare New Economy.

“We felt initially, because New Economy was a grass filly, that he would do well on the grass,” Drysdale said. “We ran on the grass a few times. We switched him to the Polytrack, and he ran much improved. He was quite improved.”

The next step, Drysdale said, is dirt. He has given the mount to Pat Valenzuela.

Apart earned a fees-paid berth into the Super Derby when he won the local prep, the $100,000 Prelude. Jesse Campbell has the mount for trainer Al Stall Jr.