05/10/2005 12:00AM

Overflow field for derby

Louis Hodges Jr.
Storm Surge is the leading earner among the Lone Star Derby probables.

Most North American racetracks cap field size at 12. Lone Star Park, however, is willing to take 14 horses at a time. And even that might not be enough to fit in the prospective field for Saturday's Walmac Lone Star Derby.

As of early this week, the connections of 18 3-year-olds had expressed interest in running in the local derby, a Grade 3 with a $300,000 purse. The entries will be whittled down to size through career earnings, and if all those with an interest actually entered, Awesome Twist, Unbridled Energy, War Bridle, and Barometer Rising would be excluded. Awesome Twist, an impressive Keeneland allowance winner, and Unbridled Energy, who was scratched sick from the April 9 Illinois Derby, both are based outside Texas.

Monarch Lane and Magna Graduate, second and third in the Illinois Derby, are expected to run on Saturday. They will take betting action, as will Storm Surge, who could ship from Kentucky for trainer Dallas Stewart. Storm Surge finished third in the Lexington Stakes and tops the Lone Star Derby earnings list with more than $367,000. Among the others expected for the race are Thor's Echo and Southern Africa, one-two in the April 2 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park.

The field appears deep, but not to be overlooked is leading trainer Steve Asmussen, who said Tuesday he would start Real Dandy in the derby. Real Dandy remains eligible for a second-level allowance race, but has finished second in 5 of his 11 starts, with a close second in the Risen Star Stakes and a fourth in the Arkansas Derby on his resume.

"We're not better than we were in the Arkansas Derby, but he's held well since then," Asmussen said.

Real Dandy has the experience and seasoning to run well Saturday, and could get a positive race setup if the early fractions are quick.

"I would say he's kind of a midpack closer," said Asmussen. "With 14 horses in there, I'm sure hoping there's going to be some pace."

Candy Verse in good spot

Asmussen also could be tough Thursday in the featured eighth race, an entry-level allowance at one mile on grass. He starts Candy Verse, who came to Asmussen's barn in April. In her first start for Asmussen, she won a $20,000 turf claimer at Sam Houston by two lengths. Thursday, Candy Verse has post 2 in a 10-horse field, and can take up a good stalking position under jockey Glen Murphy.

Touch of Creme also could run well - provided she carries her rider to the finish this time. In an April 27 race over this course, Touch of Creme was battling for the lead at the eighth pole when she ducked in sharply and dropped jockey Monte Berry. Berry is back aboard Thursday, and he should be on or near a moderate pace with a horse ready to move forward in her second start back from a two-month break.