10/03/2001 11:00PM

Indiana Derby a melting pot of talent


ANDERSON, Ind. - As the fall harvest begins in the grain fields surrounding Hoosier Park, Saturday's $300,000 Indiana Derby has drawn a bumper crop of its own.

A crack field of 12 3-year-olds, including graded stakes performers from the East Coast, Midwest, and South, will hook up at 1 1/16 miles in the seventh, and deepest, edition of the Indiana Derby, this track's richest race.

Trainer Anthony Dutrow holds the strongest hand as he sends out the coupled entry of Saratoga Games and Burning Roma, who is rapidly approaching millionaire status.

Burning Roma, who is owned by Harold Queen, is a winner of eight of 13 career starts with earnings of $805,300 and the stronger part of the entry. Regular rider Rick Wilson will come in to ride Burning Roma from post 9. His entrymate, Saratoga Games will be ridden by Mario Pino from post 2.

Burning Roma, a son of Rubiano, has reeled off five wins this year but came up short when third in his last two efforts. On Sept. 22 he lodged a bid but weakened late to finish five lengths behind Express Tour in the Jerome Handicap at Belmont. Before that he came within a half-length of Point Given in the Haskell Invitational while falling a nose short of runner-up Touch Tone.

Free of Love, who will be ridden by Richard Migliore from post 11, finished fifth behind Point Given in the Travers in his most recent start for trainer Rich Violette. Before that race he finished a strong second, beaten a half-length by Scorpion, in the Jim Dandy Stakes.

Burning Roma and Free of Love appear to hold a class edge over their rivals but the bulky field and tighter turns of this seven-eighths of a mile oval will test their mettle. Free of Love has made the pace in his recent efforts, while Burning Roma may benefit by the later style of running he has used in his recent races.

In addition to Free of Love, other front-runners in the race include the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Orientate, who is likely to set the pace, and Lexington Stakes winner and Kentucky Derby starter Keats, who istrained by Niall O'Callaghan.

A horse who bears watching is Quadrophonic Sound, who rallied to third, beaten just over three lengths, in the Sept. 23 Super Derby at Louisana Downs. Jon Court will ride Quadrophonic Sound for trainer Bobby Barnett. Quadrophonic Sound is still in search of his first stakes win but has rounded into solid form in his last three efforts while closing from well off the pace.

* Red's Honor, a winner of three straight races at Keenelenad and Churchill Downs earlier this summer, should rule a heavy favorite in the $40,000 Fort Wayne Stakes at six furlongs. A son of Glitterman trained by Dale Romans, Red's Honor has been idle since racing in stakes at Belmont and Calder over the summer. Justin Vitek will ride.

* In the $30,000 Hillsdale Stakes, Pemaquid Point should be favored over five other Indiana-bred 2-year-olds going 5 1/2 furlongs. A promising five-length maiden winner on Sept. 24, Pemaquid Point is a son of Devil His Due and will be making his third career start.