10/11/2006 11:00PM

Momentum's a win away for A. P. Warrior

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A. P. Warrior has already proven that he can win important stakes on turf and dirt. In March, he won the San Felipe Stakes, a prep to the Kentucky Derby, which was on dirt. In August, he won his turf debut in the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar.

Now, he must prove he can win such races consecutively. A. P. Warrior can accomplish that in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Oak Tree Derby at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting, his first start since the La Jolla Handicap.

Trainer John Shirreffs held A. P. Warrior out of the Del Mar Derby last month in favor of the Oak Tree Derby. Shirreffs said he does not regret the decision after watching A. P. Warrior thrive in recent training.

"I just didn't want to run him again on that turf course," Shirreffs said of Del Mar. "I figured one trip was enough."

The Oak Tree Derby will be A. P. Warrior's eighth start of the year. Through the year, A. P. Warrior finished third in the Santa Anita Derby, 18th in the Kentucky Derby, and second in the Affirmed Handicap. In the La Jolla, he rallied from third to win by a nose over Porto Santo.

"He's kind of shown he can run on either surface," Shirreffs said. "He's a better stalker than pacesetter, so hopefully there will be some speed."

A. P. Warrior led in the Affirmed and in a third-place finish in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park in July, but Shirreffs said he wants A. P. Warrior to be behind the early pacesetters.

"He likes to follow horses," he said. "In the mornings, he's a little lazy. He's better if he has something in front of him. I think it keeps him focused."

Owned by Stan Fulton, A. P. Warrior has won 4 of 12 starts and $530,595 in his career.

In the Oak Tree Derby, run over 1 1/8 miles on turf, A. P. Warrior must beat Obrigado, the runner-up in the Del Mar Derby on Sept. 4, and the English invader Dark Islander.

Obrigado, who began his career in France, won his first stakes in the restricted Oceanside Stakes at Del Mar in July. In the Del Mar Derby, Obrigado closed well through the stretch to get within 1 1/2 lengths of race winner Get Funky.

Dark Islander makes his U.S. debut in the Oak Tree Derby. Trained by John Hills, Dark Islander has won two of his last three starts, with the wins coming in handicap races over a mile on turf in England.