01/24/2004 1:00AM

Joyful Ballad can do


OLDSMAR Fla. - It's about the last thing rival horsemen want to hear, but it looks like trainer Tom Proctor has another runner in his barn.

Proctor had won seven races from his first 13 starters at the meet coming into Friday's program, and then the son of the great horseman Willard Proctor sent out one of his more promising Glen Hill Farm runners in the eighth race. Joyful Ballad, a long-striding daughter of Saint Ballado, had dead-heated for the win in a seven-furlong maiden sprint here

Dec. 30, then came back with two strong morning drills - a half mile in 49.80 seconds Jan. 10 and a black-letter six-furlong move in 1:16.80 Jan. 18.

Running around two turns for the second time in her career Friday, Joyful Ballad was content to lope along behind the early leaders to the far turn in the 1 1/16-mile allowance. When jockey Jose Castanon gave the signal, Joyful Ballad responded quickly, breezing past the leaders along the outside. With Castanon keeping his Joyful Ballad's mind on business in the stretch, she pulled away with every stride, hitting the wire 8 1/2 lengths clear while covering the distance over a fast but somewhat dull racing strip in a creditable 1:46.38.

Friday's race was Joyful Ballad's fifth start. She showed enough promise in her first two starts at Churchill last year for Proctor to take the then 3-year-old to Del Mar. She was well bet in a mile maiden race there, but warmed up washy for that race and faded after tracking a pace that had a six-furlong clocking of 1:10.82.

Joyful Ballad is eligible for the $60,000 Suncoast Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 21. She may ultimately take a shot at the Grade 3, $100,000 Hillsborough Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf on March 14.

Memorial for Pedregal

Track chaplin Tom Bartram officiated Saturday morning at a memorial in the winner's circle for Art Pedregal.

Pedregal was leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs in 1987-88 and co-leader in 1988-89 with Don Jordan. After retiring from training, he served as a state steward here for 11 years. Pedregal died unexpectedly at age 60, shortly before the current meeting began.

Bartram also officiated at services last week for J.W. McCullar, a former rider and track official in the Midwest for many years who also passed away recently.

Exercise rider Finegan improving

Exercise rider Michael Finegan, who was air-lifted by helicopter from the Tampa backstretch Thursday morning after suffering what was originally thought to be life-threatening injuries, continues to show improvement.

Finegan suffered serious head trauma when reportedly kicked after a horse he was riding fell on a backstretch horse path. Finegan's condition has improved, and he has been moved from the intensive care unit to a regular room at St. Joseph's Hospital.