03/04/2009 1:00AM

One last shot at the big time


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When the meet began, Atomic Rain and Well Positioned were considered potential Kentucky Derby candidates. Two months later, those aspirations are fading fast, with both 3-year-olds having one last chance to keep their faint Derby hopes alive with a big effort in Friday's $42,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream Park. The nine-furlong race drew a field of eight and is almost certain to produce a potential starter or two for the Grade 1 Florida Derby to be decided at the same distance here March 28.

Both Atomic Rain and Well Positioned enter Friday's crucial test off disappointing performances. Atomic Rain finished a distant seventh as the second choice in Tampa Bay Downs' Sam F. Davis Stakes on Feb. 14, while Well Positioned was beaten even farther as the 7-5 favorite in an entry-level allowance race at a mile here two weeks earlier.

Trainer Kelly Breen said he was tossing out Atomic Rain's effort in the Sam Davis. In his previous start, Atomic Rain finished second while beaten just a neck by Free Country under similar entry-level allowance conditions as Friday's main event.

"He came back like he didn't even run after the race at Tampa," said Breen, who also has Derby candidate West Side Bernie in his barn. "He still needs a lot of graded money, so hopefully we can get a good effort out of him here and point him towards the Florida Derby."

Well Positioned became an instant sensation after winning his maiden by 14 lengths and earning a 91 Beyer Speed Figure in his second career start. The performance was reminiscent of Big Brown's maiden win one year earlier, a victory that came for the same connections of owner Paul Pompa Jr. and Pat Reynolds.

"In retrospect, I probably should have taken another few weeks before he started here, but I'm not ready to give up on him yet," said Reynolds. "There's just too much horse there for that. Breaking his maiden the way he did was not a mirage."

Both Atomic Rain and Well Positioned will have to get back on top of their games if they are going to earn themselves a coveted spot in the Florida Derby. Among their six rivals on Friday are Stately Character, a stakes winner at 2; Chef, an impressive debut winner here last month; and Al Kahli, who makes his U.S. debut for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Along with Al Kahli, the only member of the field with two career victories, Pletcher also entered Idol Maker in Friday's race.