02/05/2005 12:00AM

Medallist wins but still fails to run straight

Medallist scores a 1 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Medallist survived early and late challenges from a gritty Mister Fotis along with his own propensity for bearing out through the stretch to register a 1 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $100,000 at Gulfstream Park.

Medallist, a 4-year-old son of Touch Gold, contested the early pace with Mister Fotis before shaking free while still well within himself around the turn. Medallist remained clear upon entering the stretch, then was fully extended to hold off Mister Fotis while bearing out steadily down the lane.

Kela, who finished second in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Sprint, went postward the co-favorite at even-money with Medallist. The stretch-runner dropped well back as expected during the early stages of the 6 1/2-furlong dash, angled wide on the final turn, but was never a factor while finishing a well-beaten third, 5 1/2 lengths behind Mister Fotis.

Forest Danger, one of the key contenders and speed horses in the original field for the Grade 3 Deputy Minister, was a late scratch.

Medallist covered the distance in 1:15.62 under jockey Jose Santos and paid $4.20 for his third graded stakes win. He won both the Grade 2 Dwyer and Grade 3 Withers during his 3-year-old campaign.

"It's always nice to win," said Allen Jerkens, who trains Medallist for Robert Clay. "And it's always nice to see a horse like Forest Danger scratch. I thought we would probably be running next to that horse instead of on the lead. I didn't like the way he was bearing out like that, even though he's done it before. The rider said he was shying away from the television cameras.

"He gets quarter cracks," Jerkens added, "and I hope he doesn't get another one."

Jerkens said he would evaluate how Medallist comes out of the race before making a decision on his next start.