05/29/2011 9:10AM

Lone Star Derby: Uncle Sam tries turf for the first time

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Trainer Bob Baffert has had a stranglehold on the Lone Star Derby since winning its inaugural running in 1997 with Anet. But for the first time this year, the race will have a new look. The $200,000 Lone Star Derby has been moved to turf after losing its Grade 3 status for 2011.

“I wish it was dirt,” said Baffert, who has also won the race with Wanna Runner (2006), Mythical Power (2009), and Game On Dude (2010).

But despite the surface switch, Baffert is still in and might even have the favorite Monday. Uncle Sam was the runner-up in the $72,000 Alydar at Hollywood last out and earned a strong Beyer Figure of 96. He will be trying turf for the first time in the Lone Star Derby.

“He’s sort of a late bloomer, is coming around slowly,” Baffert said. “He might like the turf. Tapits usually run well on the turf.”

Martin Garcia has the mount on Uncle Sam, who is one of two Southern California shippers. Thirtyfirststreet enters off a close third in the $150,000 Snow Chief. He, too, is making his turf debut, and his trainer, Doug O’Neill, is looking forward to the test.

“His sire was a good turf horse,” he said, “and he worked good on the grass the other day here at Hollywood. He’s a real honest colt that I think deserves to try a race like the Lone Star Derby.”

Thirtyfirststreet is by Good Journey, a Grade 1 winner on the grass. Chris Landeros has the mount. Others in a competitive field include Close Ally, the runner-up in the Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill, and Derby Kitten, who took the Grade 3 Lexington in April.