11/30/2005 12:00AM

'Major' makes Caraman's transition easy

Reed Palmer Photography
Military Major, trained by Mike Caraman, will be among the favorites for Saturday's $100,000 Zia Park Derby.

When trainer Mike Caraman was galloping horses for the Kinsman Farm operation of George Steinbrenner, one of his favorites was Military Major. In October, Military Major gave Caraman his biggest win as a trainer when he captured the $150,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park.

Military Major will be out to make it two derbies in a row on Saturday, when he starts as one of the leading contenders in the $100,000 Zia Park Derby. He is one of eight horses in the field for the 1 1/16-mile race, which will come on the next-to-last card of the inaugural meet at Zia.

Caraman, 34, trained horses prior to taking the farm position with Kinsman, near Ocala, Fla. This past spring, he was sent to Louisiana Downs with a string of horses to train, including Military Major. So far, Caraman's return to training has been a successful one, as he has won races at a 23-percent clip in 2005. He said he is grateful to Edward Sexton, farm manager of Kinsman, for the chance to train for Steinbrenner.

"He told me that he would like to send me to the track with some horses," Caraman said of Sexton.

Of Military Major, Caraman said: "I galloped this horse on the farm, and I remember I told [Sexton] 'This is a nice horse right here.' I said 'I really like this horse.' The way he hit the ground, so easy and fluent."

Caraman continues to gallop Military Major, who is a half-brother to Grade 3 winner Acceptable.

The complete field for the Zia Derby from the rail with riders: Devon Rules, Carlos Rivas; Hope for Peace, Jorge Martin Bourdieu; Devious Choice, Salvador Martinez; Military Major, Jeff Burningham; Stormin Away, Paul Atkinson; Lumbre, Quincy Hamilton; Broke Sharply, Ken Tohill; and Real Dandy, Luis Quinonez.