02/29/2004 1:00AM

Maiden upsets Borderland Derby at Sunland

Bill Pitt, Jr.
Go Kitty Go hits the wire 1 1/4 lengths in front of favored Rocky Gulch for his maiden victory in the $105,450 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park on Sunday.

SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - The multiple graded stakes winner Island Fashion was a maiden last year at this time before winning the WinStar Sunland Park Oaks, and on Sunday another maiden won a key 3-year-old stakes at Sunland Park when Go Kitty Go upset the $105,450 at odds of 24-1.

Go Kitty Go moved five wide on the far turn under Miguel Fuentes to challenge favored Rocky Gulch and then gradually wore down that rival for his first career win for owners Vernon and Sylvia Hauschild. The winning margin was 1 1/4 lengths on the line.

Go Kitty Go's trainer, Mac Millar, was one of the few people not surprised by the win.

"I had a lot of confidence in this horse," an elated Millar said after the race. "I really feel like he might just be coming around."

The race was the fourth for Go Kitty Go since Millar arranged a private purchase on behalf of the Hauschilds in December from Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, who had raced him at Woodbine as a 2-year-old with trainer Mark Casse. "I had been looking for a good horse for them for some time, and now we are going to the WinStar Derby," Millar continued.

The Hauschilds first got into racing three years ago when they retired and moved from their farm in Coal City, Illinois to the mountain resort town of Ruidoso, N.M. and Go Kitty Go is their first real taste of success. "They are really wonderful people to work for and it's good to see them get a win like this," Millar said.

The New Mexico-bred Rocky Gulch, who was making his first start in open company after dominating statebred competition, was made the 1.10-1 choice and did not disappoint his trainer Terry Walker. Facing a stern test for the first time, Rocky Gulch rated in the two path under Mike Clark and the pair faced a strong headwind as they turned down the backside. Still, Rocky Gulch dug in well for the drive long after the other front runners had fallen by the wayside.

"It was time for us to find out what we had and today he not only showed he had the talent but the heart as well," trainer Terry Walker reflected after the race. "He could have easily folded his tent at the quarter pole, it was the first time he had really ever been challenged."

A seasoned horseman, Walker had no apologies for his horse and retained a keen sense of a realistic future. The Borderland Derby is the local prep to Sunland's marquee race, the $500,000 WinStar Derby on March 28, and with the $100,000 New Mexico Breeder's Derby on the same day Walker hinted he might enter in both races and not make a final decision until race day.

The final time for the Borderland was 1:37.87 and Go Kitty Go paid $50.40 to win, while the $1 exacta with Rocky Gulch returned $87.20. Go Kitty Go, a son of Tale of the Cat, now has a career record of 9-1-4-2 with earnings of $102,889.