01/31/2009 1:00AM

Musket Man to test deeper waters


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Nobody knows better than Derek Ryan that it is, as the refrain from the song goes, "A long way to Tipperary."

Now, in his 20th year in the United States since coming to this country from that famed Irish hamlet, Ryan is cautiously hopeful he can take another journey this spring with a promising 3-year-old named Musket Man.

Musket Man kept his record perfect after three starts on Jan. 17 when he posted a length win in the Pasco Stakes here at Tampa Bay Downs going seven furlongs. He earned a lot of new admirers that afternoon when he covered the distance in a fast 1:23.06, less than a second off the seven-furlong track record of 1:22.28 set by Sir Shackleton in 2006.

An athletic-looking son of Yonaguska out of five-time winner Fortuesque, Musket Man showed some grit in the Pasco, moving to the front entering the stretch, then turning back a determined challenge from General Quarters before shaking free again near the wire. Ryan said his charge has a world of talent but also has a laid-back demeanor that fools a lot of people into thinking he's lazy and not interested in competing.

"He just galumphs around like an old cow sometimes and acts like he's bored to death," Ryan said. "I have to work him with company to keep his interest, but if I put someone in front of him he gets involved in a hurry.

"He's so deceptively quick you think he's not going fast at all, then you look at the watch and he's knocking out a half of 46 and change," Ryan added. "It's his effortless nature when he's galloping and racing that makes me think he'll run all day."

The Grade 3, $300,000 Tampa Bay Derby is one of the target races for Musket Man, and while Ryan is a pragmatist who realizes how difficult it can be to reach the Kentucky Derby, he also is a keen judge of talent and feels the best is still ahead for his young runner.

"He's still learning and growing and still loses his focus on occasion, like he did once he got to the front in the Pasco, but he regroups quickly and takes care of business," Ryan said. "He'll tell us if he's good enough to try the big boys. Time will tell."

Sumo impresses despite racing greenly

If Musket Man does run in the Tampa Bay Derby, he may well run into Sumo, who had an eventful trip en route to winning his 2009 debut in an optional claiming race at a mile and 40 yards Friday.

Trained by H. Graham Motion, Sumo slipped through along the rail in the second turn of that route to gain a clear lead and looked to be home free when he suddenly drifted out leaving the furlong marker.

At that point, Remarkable Storm angled inside and challenged Sumo while Bally Bluff ranged up on the outside. Jockey Jeremy Rose was able to get Sumo's mind back on business and Sumo rekicked near the wire to win by 1o1/4 lengths.

"He's still a very green colt," said Motion from his south Florida headquarters Saturday morning. "Jeremy said he was forced to go to the front sooner than he wanted and that Sumo started gawking and lost his concentration for a moment in the stretch, but that he would benefit from the experience."

Motion said he shipped Sumo, a Fusaichi Pegasus colt, in to race to see how he handled the Tampa Bay footing. He now plans on training him up to the Tampa Bay Derby.

"He'll be off the pace when he races with better company, so I'm not going to put blinkers on him," Motion said. "Jeremy said he'll be all right and keep his focus if he has something to run at."

Sumo is owned by Arthur Hancock III, who was part-owner of the 1982 Kentucky Derby winner, Gato del Sol and the 1989 winner Sunday Silence.