09/30/2004 12:00AM

Indiana Derby anyone's race


ANDERSON, Ind. - The $500,000-added Indiana Derby, which will be run as a Grade 2 for the first time Saturday, continues to build upon its success and has six graded stakes winners among its nine entrants.

Sir Shackleton and Pollard's Vision are the top contenders, but this 1 1/16-mile race has produced its share of surprises during its first nine runnings, a fact that should not be ignored by handicappers. Only one favorite, Forty One Carats at 5-2 in 1999, has won the Indiana Derby.

Pollard's Vision, who is cross-entered in the Pegasus at The Meadowlands on Friday night but expected to run here, has displayed a style that often is effective over Hoosier Park's seven-furlong oval and quarter-mile stretch.

Pollard's Vision scored a front-running win in the Illinois Derby this spring, but showed versatility by using a stalking style to win the Grade 3 Leonard Richards at Delaware Park in mid-July. John Velazquez will be aboard from post 1.

Sir Shackleton is next door in post 2. Rafael Bejarano, the nation's leading rider by races won, will be in the irons for trainer Nick Zito. Sir Shackleton waited, then pounced in late stretch to capture the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 7 to earn a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure. In his last start, the Grade 1 Travers, he failed to fire and finished fifth, beaten a little over 11 lengths.

Brass Hat, trained by William Bradley, is an improving horse but enters the race off a three-month layoff. In his last start, Brass Hat rallied strongly at 20-1 to win the Ohio Derby going away over Pollard's Vision, earning a 103 Beyer. Prior to that, he was second in an allowance at Churchill Downs to Alumni Hall while finishing well in front of Fantasticat, last weekend's Super Derby winner.

Brass Hat, a son of Breeders' Cup Turf winner Prized, has a habit of outrunning his odds. In addition to his Ohio Deby upset, he shocked bettors at 38-1 by posting his first career victory in the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes at Turfway in March. Willie Martinez rides Brass Hat, who has a solid chance to beat his more well-known rivals in this wide-open race.

Trainer Steve Asmussen brings in Quintons Gold Rush, the Lexington Stakes winner, who was eased in the Kentucky Derby in his last start. With Shane Sellers aboard from post 5, Quintons Gold Rush should attend the pace, which is expected to be set by the Indiana-bred sprinter Edgerrin. Quintons Gold Rush may have a good jump on some of his chief rivals going into the final turn.

* Ellen's Lucky Star and One Eyed Jackie, the one-two finishers in the Richmond Stakes a year ago, head a field of nine entered in this year's edition of the 1 1/16-mile stakes. The $40,000 Richmond is for Indiana-bred fillies and mares who are sired by Indiana stallions.

In the $40,000 Hillsdale Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs, Moros Destiny and Snac, who both won their maiden by double digits, should vie for favoritism.