04/06/2004 11:00PM

Kimmel keeping Friends Lake out of the wars

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - While Kentucky Derby hopefuls have banged heads in major prep races from coast to coast over the past several weeks, Friends Lake, much to the delight of trainer John Kimmel, continues to train in relative anonymity at Payson Park.

Friends Lake secured his position in the Kentucky Derby with his victory in the $1 million Florida Derby on March 13, and Kimmel is sticking to his plan of training the New York-bred up to the big race.

"Right now a lot of the other 3-year-olds are knocking themselves out playing catch-up, just trying to earn enough money to get into the Derby," Kimmel said by phone from Keeneland on Wednesday. "That's exactly what I didn't want to happen to my horse, to knock him out before the big one."

Friends Lake has had a couple of leisurely works since the Florida Derby but will begin to pick up the pace this weekend.

"He's been doing a lot of two-minute licking and looking very well," said Kimmel. "He's had a significant weight gain since the Florida Derby, and both his color and soundness are good.

"I'm ready to get a little more intense with his business, although he won't work beyond five furlongs," he said. "He is a very fit horse, that's not an issue here, and the Payson track is pretty demanding. If he gallops out in 1:17 that's a pretty strong work."

Kimmel will breeze Friends Lake twice more at Payson before shipping to Kentucky about 10 days before the Derby. He'll work once, likely the Saturday before Derby Day, at Churchill Downs.

Hallandale rivals once hooked up in workout

Golden Gator and Frisky Spider will race against each other for the first time when they go postward in Saturday's $60,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes. But the two speedy 3-year-olds have met once before - during a gate work at The Meadowlands in mid-October.

In fact, Tim Kelly, who trains Golden Gator for owners Frank Neuwirth and the D.J. Stable, liked Frisky Spider, trained by Bob Durso, enough to try to buy him.

"Bob and I worked both our colts together one morning in New Jersey and I was shocked when his beat mine about a head or so, because up to then nothing had beaten my horse," Kelly said. "I immediately went over and offered him a couple of hundred thousand for his horse, but he declined."

Frisky Spider won his career debut by 4 1/2 lengths the following week at The Meadowlands. He went on to win a pair of allowance sprints here earlier in the meet before tiring badly trying to go two turns in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby.

"My colt wasn't quite ready to run when he worked against Frisky Spider," Kelly said. "That was his first major breeze. So I passed the next maiden race, let Bob run to get him out of the way, then broke my horse's maiden the following week."

Golden Gator won his debut by 5 3/4 lengths, then went on the shelf until last month, when he finished third behind the more experienced Baronage and Kipper's Night in the OBS Sprint Stakes in Ocala.

"My horse probably wasn't tight enough in Ocala," said Kelly. "He was a work away, and that track is a little deeper than what he's been training on over here. He'll be at a slight disadvantage going into the race Saturday with only two starts under his belt, but he's very professional, and he has shown he can relax during his races."

Joe Bravo will ride Golden Gator in the Hallandale Beach.

Kelly's biggest problem might be getting the Hallandale Beach to fill. As of Wednesday, racing secretary Dave Bailey had only five prospective starters for the race and might not let the race go if he cannot make a field of six.

Along with Golden Gator and Frisky Spider, only Classy Migration, Lissau, and Courageous King were listed as confirmed starters.

* Trainer Michael Yates dominated Wednesday's 2-year-old race when he sent out All This 'n Change and Memories of Pa, who finished one-two in the three-furlong dash. All This 'n Change returned $56.20 and keyed a stable exacta worth $314.

* The main track had to be closed for training early Wednesday at Calder after a horse wheeled leaving the chute at the top of the stretch and ran through the inner railing just inside the quarter pole. The impact shattered the rail, but both the horse and the jockey aboard, Omar Camejo, escaped the incident without serious injuries.