04/13/2005 11:00PM

Meet man behind 3 top 3-year-olds

Sunny Taylor/Coady Photography
The footprints of owner-breeder Lewis Lakin dot the Derby trail.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Lewis Lakin's influence on the Triple Crown trail this year involves not just Greater Good, a horse he co-bred and owns. Lakin is also the co-breeder of Real Dandy, who will run against Greater Good in the Grade 2, $1 million on Saturday, as well as Sort It Out, a stakes-winning 3-year-old trained by Bob Baffert.

Lakin has Lakland Farm operations in New York, Kentucky and Florida, in partnership with with Becky Thomas. He flew into Hot Springs last week to watch Greater Good, a son of Intidab and graded stakes winner Gather the Clan, in his final work for the Arkansas Derby.

"I bought his dam at Keeneland in an auction," said Lakin. "[Bertram] Firestone was dispersing his horses back in 1988."

Greater Good has won all four of his two-turn races, and all of those route wins have come in stakes, including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, and the Grade 3, $250,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

He is a ridgling, a broad term that covers horses with one or no descended testicles, and following a recent exam, there is hope he will be able to have a breeding career after his racing days are over, said Lakin.

"He does have one [testicle] that may function," said Lakin. "It will probably take some work, and we're talking to some fertility experts on it, but we're not going to do anything with it until he's done with this campaign."

Real Dandy, a son of Yankee Victor, races for Cathy and Bob Zollars. His dam, Berga, is a full sister to Grade 1 winner Diazo. She also produced four-time stakes winner Premeditation. Real Dandy was second to Scipion in the Grade 3 Risen Star.

Sort It Out, a son of Out of Place, races for Stonerside and Preferred Pals. He won the Whirlaway at Aqueduct and was third in his last start, the $500,000 WinStar Derby.

Zito: Watch out for Andromeda's Hero

With Bellamy Road, High Fly, Noble Causeway, and Sun King, trainer Nick Zito has more than his share of legitimate contenders for the May 7 Kentucky Derby. But Zito warns not to give up on Andromeda's Hero, who will seek a Derby berth in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

Andromeda's Hero was fifth most recently in the Lane's End Stakes, in which Arkansas Derby runners Flower Alley and Wild Desert finished one-two. Zito likens Andromeda's Hero's performance in that race to Birdstone's one year ago in the Lane's End.

"He had no shot. It was a sealed track, and he never got a hold of it until the end," Zito said.

Birdstone later in the year won the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes. Andromeda's Hero has just one stakes victory thus far, in the Sam Davis at Tampa Bay.

"He's got a lot of class, that horse," Zito said. "Hopefully on Saturday he can prove what I'm talking about."

Rockport Harbor looking good

Rockport Harbor was forced to skip the Arkansas Derby, but his trainer, John Servis, said he thinks the colt can make next week's Grade 2, $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Rockport Harbor has battled foot problems all winter, then recently had a blood clot in his throat.

"He's starting to act like his old self. Finally," Servis said. "I might work him on Saturday, or at least give him a two-minute lick."

Rockport Harbor needs regular maintenance of his right rear hoof, which was first injured in last fall's Remsen Stakes. The blood clot flared two weeks ago and made Rockport Harbor's neck swell. The swelling has dissipated. "It was very, very painful for him. He couldn't even put his head down to graze," Servis said.

Vestal family affair

Trainer Pete Vestal trained both the sire and dam of his Arkansas Derby starter, Batson Challenge. The colt ran third at 60-1 in the Rebel, earning a shot in the Arkansas Derby. He drew the rail and will be ridden by Calvin Borel.

Vestal said Batson Challenge is an improving colt. He trained his sire, Ide, who won the Rebel in 1996, as well as his dam, Motion in Limine. The colt races for his breeder, Richard Griffin, and will be making his second start on Lasix.

* Oaklawn announcer Terry Wallace will have called 17,191 consecutive races at Oaklawn Park by the close of the meet on Saturday. Wallace came on board at Oaklawn in 1975. The first Arkansas Derby he called was won by Promised City.

"My favorite one to do was when Althea beat the boys [in 1984], because that was a great field that was behind her that day.

* Bobby Velez, the regular exercise rider on Rockport Harbor this year, also galloped Spend a Buck and champion Eillo.

* Longtime trainer Jean Brennan, the father of Oaklawn trainer Terry Brennan, was in St. Joseph's Hospital Regional Medical Center in Hot Springs, Ark., with heart trouble on Thursday.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman