02/03/2005 1:00AM

Kela takes aim at six foes in Deputy Minister


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Kela's impressive resume already includes a second behind Eclipse Award winner Speightstown in the Breeders' Cup Sprint and a victory over Eclipse runnerup Pico Central in the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap. On Saturday, Kela brings his class act to Gulfstream Park, where he will be favored to defeat six rivals in the Grade 3, $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap.

, who surpassed the $1 million mark in career earnings last season, has been training steadily for his East Coast debut at Palm Meadows under the watchful eye of trainer Mike Mitchell.

"He's doing really well, and I think the Gulfstream Park track, even though it favors speed, will be good for him because of the wider turns, which is better for his particular style," said Mitchell.

At his best, Kela will be tough to beat in the 6 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister. He has already posted four Beyer Speed Figures of 109 or better, including a 116 when rallying to a 4 1/2-length victory over Domestic Dispute and Pico Central in the Pat O'Brien. Kela finished fourth as the 3-2 favorite in the Vernon Underwood at Hollywood Park to close out his 2004 campaign, but Mitchell was quick to dismiss that effort.

"He didn't care for that type of track," said Mitchell. "It was sealed and sloppy, speed won all day, and just not his kind of going."

Kela's chief rivals are Forest Danger and Medallist, both of whom are speed types who must avoid an early battle that would enhance Kela's chances.

won his first three starts, including the Grade 3 Bay Shore, before being upset by Medallist in the Grade 3 Withers at one mile. Forest Danger came out of the Withers with a stress fracture of his left tibia, which did not require surgery. A son of Forestry, Forest Danger has trained brilliantly at Palm Meadows for his return, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

followed his victory in the Withers with an easy victory in the Grade 2 Dwyer. He then went into a three-race slump before bouncing back with a 4 1/2-length victory in Calder's seven-furlong Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap, in which he earned a 113 Beyer.

"He seems to be a better horse when on or with the lead, although sometimes speedy horses will learn to rate themselves a bit as they get older," said trainer Allen Jerkens.

Also in the field are Voodoo, who was second in the Grade 1 Vosburgh in October, Mister Fotis, Nightmare Affair, and Paradise Dancer.