04/05/2005 12:00AM

Illinois Derby full of fringe prospects


STICKNEY, Ill. - Nine horses went into the Illinois Derby when entries were taken Tuesday at Hawthorne. The question is: Is anything of note coming out of the race?

A Grade 2 with a $500,000 purse, the local derby is an ostensible , and horses are coming in from both coasts and Kentucky. Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott, one-two in the Gulfstream Park trainer standings, each have a starter.

Yet there is little proven 3-year-old talent here. Magna Graduate is the field's lone open stakes winner. The eight others remain eligible for a nonwinners-of-three-lifetime allowance race, and two of the shorter-priced runners, Monarch Lane and Kansas City Boy, still could run in an entry-level allowance.

"The way I look at it is, this is a race with a lot of wannabes in it," said Elliott Walden, who himself trains one of them, Unbridled Energy. "But there's going to be something that comes out of there that can run. There's three or four horses in there that have a lot of talent, and one of them is going to step up, and you're going to hear about them the rest of the year."

Many will settle on Greeley's Galaxy as the one. In from California, where he has won two in a row since a tough-trip loss in his career debut, Greeley's Galaxy drew post 1, and with Kent Desormeaux named to ride, looms a potential favorite. Greeley's Galaxy could earn a berth in the Kentucky Derby with a victory Saturday, but owner B. Wayne Hughes would have to pay a $200,000 late nomination fee to run there.

Monarch Lane at least got a close look at an upper-tier Kentucky Derby hopeful when he finished third behind Sun King in an allowance at Gulfstream. Monarch Lane will be making his first start around two turns.

Magna Graduate has post 3 and Eddie Razo, while to his outside come the Mott-trained, New York-based allowance winner Rikman (Herbie Castillo) and Unbridled Energy (Shaun Bridgmohan).

The longshot Medigating (Larry Melancon) has post 6, with Win Me Over (Larry Sterling), the lone local hope, in post 7. Daddy Joe (Norberto Arroyo), second in the Rushaway at Turfway, breaks from the 8 hole, while Kansas City Boy (Chris Emigh), a disappointing seventh in the Louisiana Derby, has post 9.