05/07/2006 11:00PM

Mr. Pursuit facing tougher rivals


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Mr. Pursuit is sharp right now, with two wins in his last three starts. On Saturday he will take a big step up in class in the Grade 3, $300,000 Walmac Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park.

A 1 1/16-mile race, the Walmac Lone Star Derby had seven probables Monday, including leading contenders Wanna Runner, winner of the $600,000 WinStar Derby; Red Raymond, a stakes winner who was a troubled 10th in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby; and Admiral's Arch, winner of the $100,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup at Oaklawn Park on April 15.

Mr. Pursuit was third by five lengths in the Northern Spur, which was run over one mile at Oaklawn Park. He broke from post 9 in the race, which began and ended at the sixteenth pole, as all mile races at Oaklawn do.

"He was wide," said Joe Petalino, who trains Mr. Pursuit. "He was coming back again at them late, but he lost a lot of ground."

Petalino said the additional distance Saturday will benefit Mr. Pursuit. Both of his career victories have come at 1 1/16 miles: He was a seven-length maiden winner at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn on March 3 and returned one start later to win an optional claimer at the same distance, closing for a 1 1/4-length win over Admiral's Arch, who returned in his next start to win the Northern Spur.

Since the Northern Spur, Mr. Pursuit has turned in two strong works at Lone Star: a half-mile move in 47.40 seconds on April 27 and a bullet five-furlong drill in 1:01 on May 5. Petalino caught him galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.

"He's been handling this racetrack really good," he said. "He has had a couple of real good works over it."

Jamie Theriot has been aboard Mr. Pursuit for his last three starts and has a return call for the Lone Star Derby.

"He'll probably lay four or five lengths off the pace," Petalino said of Mr. Pursuit. "That's about him."

Mr. Pursuit is a son of the A.P. Indy stallion General Royal, who registered his biggest career win at 1 1/8 miles in the Grade 3 William P. Kyne Handicap, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 107. Ilona Whetstone owns Mr. Pursuit, who began his career in Southern California.

Planes on Tuesday, Wednesday

Flights bringing horses to town for the Lone Star Derby were scheduled to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday, said Lone Star assistant racing secretary Jeanette Hughes. Wanna Runner is flying in from Southern California on Tuesday. The flight on Wednesday will come from Kentucky. Among those expected to be on board are Red Raymond, who earlier this year was second to Lawyer Ron in the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

Other horses whom Lone Star stakes coordinator Mike Shamburg considers probable for Saturday are Sweetening, who was second in the Northern Spur, and a starter from trainer Todd Pletcher, whose nominees include High Cotton, who won the $100,000 Rushaway at Turfway Park. Rain on Monday, who was second in his stakes debut last out at Sam Houston, is another probable for the Lone Star Derby.

There are several other horses considered possible for the race, said Shamburg.

Trainer Chris Hartman said he had considered the Lone Star Derby for Belligerence and Wait in Line, both of whom are stakes-placed, but he said on Sunday that he will likely point them both for the $150,000 Pin Oak Stud USA for 3-year-olds on turf at Lone Star on May 29.

Options for Rachelsarompin

Rachelsarompin turned in a strong performance last Saturday, when she won the $50,000 Richland Hills Farm Stakes at 20-1. She covered the six furlongs for 3-year-old fillies in 1:10.92 and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 85.

"I think she's just now starting to bloom. She's just coming on," said Tim Dixon, who trains Rachelsarompin for his parents, Ray and Helen Dixon.

Dixon said he will look at sprint stakes in this region and at Prairie Meadows for Rachelsarompin. He said the $100,000 Stonerside at Lone Star on May 29 is an outside possibility. Dixon said an option is the $50,000 Dixie Miss at Louisiana Downs on July 15.

Rachelsarompin is based at Dixon's training center in Conway, Ark.

Random Gold vs. Book Note

Random Gold, who has finished no worse than second in his last four starts, appears to be the one to beat in the featured eighth race Wednesday night. He comes into the 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer off a 2 1/2-length win at a similar level at Oaklawn on March 24.

For his effort, Random Gold earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. His chief threats are the comebacking stakes winner Book Note and the stakes-placed Skin Flint. Book Note last raced in November 2003 and won the $35,000 Conroe at Sam Houston.