04/08/2009 12:00AM

Pace setup 'looks perfect' for Golden Yank

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Golden Yank is a bigger, stronger version of the horse who last year closed out his 3-year-old campaign with a pair of six-figure derby wins. The attributes figure to serve him well on Thursday, when he will attempt to win his first stakes against older horses in the $100,000 Fifth Season at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile race for 4-year-olds and up is part of the Racing Festival of the South, Oaklawn's annual cluster of nine stakes worth $2.8 million that is run over the final week of the meet. The season closes Saturday with the Arkansas Derby.

Golden Yank, who races for Millard R. Seldin, earned more than $400,000 as a 3-year-old, among his wins the $350,000 Oklahoma Derby in October and the $150,000 Zia Park in December. He has faced older horses three times since, finishing second in the Grade 3 Colonel Bradley at Fair Grounds on Jan. 10, second in the $100,000 Essex at Oaklawn on Feb. 7, then ninth in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds on March 14. The Muniz, his last race, was run on a turf course rated good after heavy storms hit New Orleans.

"The turns were tough, the soft turf, and he struggled and struggled," trainer Gary Thomas said of Golden Yank's run in the Muniz. "He tried his butt off but couldn't get anywhere. When he finally got straight down the lane there, he made up about eight lengths. It took a lot out of him."

Golden Yank returned to his Oaklawn base following the Muniz, has breezed once here, and should get a nice pace to close into Thursday.

"It looks perfect, like there's six or seven front-runners in there, and that's what he needs," said Thomas, who has given the mount to Tim Doocy.

Acting Zippy, Glamour Guy, Spotsgone, Encaustic, and Sebastian County all figure to be prominent. So could Z Fortune, who will be making his first start since August. He made a favorable physical impression working here Monday, and did run one of the biggest races of his career last year at Oaklawn, when second in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby.

If the pace is strong, it would benefit Going Ballistic. He has used his closing kick to amass career earnings of $944,082, and with a win Thursday he would become a millionaire. Cliff Berry has the mount on Going Ballistic for Kindred Thoroughbreds and trainer Donnie Von Hemel.

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