02/28/2003 12:00AM

Mr. Decatur takes next step


SUNLAND PARK, N.M. - Sunday's $100,000-added Borderland Derby is the final local prep for the newly created $500,000 WinStar Derby on March 31. With Sum Trick, winner of the Riley Allsion Futurity, electing to stay in California, the one-mile Borderland gives others an opportunity to prove their worth - something they all need to do to earn a spot in the WinStar.

Excessivepleasure, a California-bred gelded son of In Excess, will be favored. But his credentials are based on efforts against statebred competition in one-turn races. The Borderland will be his first effort around two turns and against open company, but it appears trainer Doug O'Neill has picked a logical spot to test the waters.

Excessivepleasure scored a mild upset in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes at Santa Anita Dec. 26 going seven furlongs. In his most recent start, he finished a game second to Valid Video on Sunshine Millions Day at Gulfstream in the Ocala Stud Dash, also at seven furlongs. Sunland's leading rider, Ricardo Jaime, has the call on Excessivepleasure, the co-highweight at 122 pounds.

Mr. Decatur has already won over this track for trainer Steve Asmussen, but he needs to prove that he can be successful at this level. Mr. Decatur finished second in the Jean Lafitte Futurity at Delta Downs. But, when facing top competition for the first time a month later in the $500,000 Delta Jackpot, he ran 10th, beaten 33 lengths. Mr. Decatur then easily beat a field of locals in an overnight handicap here Feb. 9.

Mr. Decatur showed an ability to stalk the leaders that day, and that style should serve him well in the Borderland. Sal Gonzalez will ride at 122 pounds.

Among the locals, Double Intrigue has the best hopes. He was second in the Allison Futurity Dec. 29, then was sent to Phoenix for his first try around two turns in the Turf Paradise Derby Feb. 1, where he finished a tired third, beaten 18 lengths after a four-wide trip. Joe Martinez will ride at 119 pounds.