07/04/2003 12:00AM

Let Suntana go, and he'll be gone


WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Suntana will be the overwhelming favorite to win the restricted $20,000 North Dakota Derby going a mile on Sunday, and, unless someone goes with him early, he should romp.

As a race restricted to 3-year-olds made eligible through the North Dakota Thoroughbred Association, the North Dakota Derby represents a huge class drop for Suntana.

In his most recent race June 21, Suntana took on Golden Boy Stakes runner-up Sand Rush going seven furlongs here and was beaten only 3 1/4 lengths. Prior to that, Suntana faced the best local 3-year-olds in the Golden Boy and the best older horses on the grounds without success.

Owned by Bonnie Larson and trained by Blair Miller, Suntana won three stakes here last year. Suntana's most recent race suggests he's back in good form.

Of the six rivals slated to meet Suntana on Sunday, Maddies Blues appears most likely to force the upset.

Maddies Blue won the Juvenile Stakes at the Woodlands last year and has been facing tougher this year at Canterbury without success. Most recently, Maddies Blues was unplaced against $15,000 claimers May 24, and prior to that he was unplaced in an allowance race.

As for the remainder of the field, Baby Wallys Joy scored in the five-furlong CPW Thoroughbred Derby at Chippewa Downs June 21. Angel Luck has been racing against maiden claimers, while Upagainsthewall, My Friend Frank, and Double Bid have been racing against maiden special weights.

Double Bid appears to be the best of the ralliers, and could upset if a duel develops.