02/17/2010 12:00AM

Lentenor out to show talent

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Barbara D. Livingston
Lentenor could be considered for the Florida Derby with a big performance on Wednesday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - First-level allowance races on the grass aren't generally regarded as key races along the Kentucky Derby trail. But Wednesday's $48,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park can be considered just that for at least one member of the field, Barbaro's little brother Lentenor, who could be headed for a major Derby prep with a victory in the 1 1/8-mile event.

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Lentenor has improved steadily for trainer Michael Matz since finishing third in his career debut over the Polytrack at Keeneland during the fall of his 2-year-old campaign. A troubled second-place finish in his juvenile finale was followed by an extremely impressive 3 1/2-length maiden win here Jan. 20, with each of Lentenor's last two starts coming on turf.

The competition will get stiffer for Lentenor when he steps in against winners for the first time Wednesday. A full field of 12 3-year-olds was entered for the race, including the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained pair of Saint Eligius and Krypton, both of whom are coming off sharp turf outings here earlier in the meet.

"He came out of his last race well, now he has to take the next step forward," said Matz who trains Lentenor, as he did Barbaro, for the Lael Stables. "It's an exciting time of year to have a horse like him going in the right direction, and if he runs well Wednesday we'll give him one shot on the dirt in one of the big stakes leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The Florida Derby would be a possible option."

Barbaro won the Florida Derby as a prelude to his victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby.

Lentenor forced the pace en route to his maiden win, but Matz said he'll have no specific instructions for jockey John Velazquez on Wednesday.

"Wherever John puts him should be fine," Matz said. "He's still green enough where he needs to learn his right running style."

Saint Eligius was well backed for his turf debut Jan. 15 and responded with a 1 3/4-length victory, with the second- and third-place finishers flattering the effort by returning to win their next start.

Krypton was beaten a head by Asphalt after early trouble and a long, stiff stretch drive under entry-level allowance conditions in his 3-year-old debut. Asphalt came back to finish third in the Hallandale Beach Stakes in his next start.

Other key contenders include Becky's Kitten, a beaten favorite at 7-5 in his local bow, Trippo, and Doubles Partner.