12/20/2004 12:00AM

A new challenge awaits Win Me Over in Florida

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Benoit & Associates
Harvey Vanier will train Futurity winner Win Me Over at Gulfstream.

CHICAGO - Win Me Over conquered two turns and statebred stakes competition with a remarkable win Saturday in the Jim Edgar Futurity. Now it is on to Florida, where Win Me Over cannot take shelter in Illinois-bred races.

He might not need to, not after the way he won Saturday's Futurity, breaking from post 14, making one run out of last place to get position on the far turn, and another furious one to blow past favored Humor at Last in deep stretch.

Harvey and Nancy Vanier's fingerprints are all over Win Me Over's victory - no surprise here, since they have won the Futurity several times before. The Vaniers bred Win Me Over, matching the young stallion Friendly Lover and their ace grass mare Wade for Me, and the colt is trained by Brian Williamson, who is married to the Vaniers' daughter, Lyda.

Jay Fedor, jockey Chris Emigh's agent, phoned Williamson shortly after the Edgar post positions were drawn Thursday. "Right when I answered the phone, I said, 'Don't tell me we got the 14,' " Williamson said. "I didn't like it, but I wasn't going to throw a fit over it. I knew it was possible to win from out there."

Emigh made it possible. He let Win Me Over outrun one horse after the break, then made a beeline for the rail, settling Win Me Over at the back of the field for the backstretch run. At the half-mile pole the pair started picking off horses, and coming off the far turn, Emigh - with a split second to decide - dove sharply to the rail. Humor at Last had gone clear in midstretch, and a furlong from the finish he looked home free, but Win Me Over, Emigh riding madly, came flying up the rail and won by a half-length.

"Even watching the replay I don't believe he can get there," Williamson said. "He rode a great race."

Win Me Over, who appeared to exit the Edgar in good shape, will join Harvey Vanier's string at Gulfstream sometime next month.

"He might try the turf, since the dam liked grass," Williamson said.

Rugula opens eyes with victory

An hour and a half before the Edgar, another 2-year-old, this one a Kentucky-bred filly named Rugula, made a splash winning an entry-level allowance race. Away from the races six months after an easy debut win at Arlington, Rugula broke like a rocket, opening a clear lead two strides into Saturday's fifth race and going on to score by almost 11. Her six-furlong time of 1:11.20 over a moderately playing racetrack was excellent for a horse of her age and limited experience.

"She came back just fine, and she acts like there's still some horse there we haven't seen yet," said trainer Joe McKellar, 55.

McKellar, who galloped his own stock until last year, does much of the work his nine-horse string demands. Mucking stalls and walking hots are within his domain. He also is partners in Rugula with Andrew Logan, and the $11,000 McKellar paid for this Bernstein filly at a yearling sale looks like a bargain.

"We've already started receiving some interest in her," said McKellar.

McKeller gave Rugula a long break between starts to give her a chance to grow up. "She's a May 13 foal, and I gave her a couple months to mature," McKellar said. "We want to give her a chance to be the filly we think she can be."

Two wins in 72 hours

Producer, a 6-year-old gelding, had scarcely returned to his stall after winning Wednesday's fifth race when the time came to do it all over again.

Producer's owner and trainer, Joey Camardo, had perused the list of possible runners in a 1 1/4-mile starter handicap carded for Saturday, and Camardo thought Producer was fit. He sent Producer out for a gallop Thursday morning, and when Producer showed no sign of wearing down, Camardo pulled the trigger and entered. Producer, racing from last in a 10-horse field, rallied and won by a nose. That's 72 hours between win pictures.

"Me and the vet were the only ones who thought we should run the horse," Camardo said. "Everybody else was against it. You can do that kind of thing this time of year; in the summer, you'd never try it. The horse is built like a tank. You can't hurt him."

* Wednesday's featured eighth race is for entry-level allowance sprinters, and if Angelic Morgan L. returns from seven-week break as sharp as he went into it, he should be a formidable foe for 10 rivals. Angelic Morgan L., from the Mike Reavis barn, cruised to a fast win over 3-year-old claimers here Oct. 30. Alone at Last, Papa Fuse, and Frenchburg stand in the way of another victory.