02/14/2008 12:00AM

Poni Colada tries to rebound in Borderland

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It's a small field, but Saturday's $100,000 Borderland Derby at Sunland Park has big implications. Not only is there the immediate result - a nice payday for whichever of the five 3-year-olds can capture the 1 1/16-mile event - but a big run here could lead right to bigger races.

The Borderland Derby is the customary springboard to the meet's marquee event, the $600,000 WinStar Derby, to be run at 1 1/8 miles on March 16.

But first things first. Trainer Steve Asmussen has made the Borderland his own little sandbox by winning three of the last six runnings, including last year's edition with Takedown. He sends out Poni Colada, the 8-5 morning-line favorite.

Poni Colada comes off a sixth-place finish, beaten 7 3/4 lengths by Liberty Bull, in Oaklawn's Smarty Jones, but may have had an excuse. In that mile race on Jan. 21, Poni Colada was making his first start since winning Zia Park's Eddy County on Nov. 23. He jumped right into a spirited pace battle along the inside and paid the price.

In his win at Zia, Poni Colada came from off the pace to prevail by three lengths. He has speed and has used it well in the past but doesn't have to be on the pace fighting every step. Alfredo Juarez Jr., who was up at Zia Park, is back aboard.

No Jepordy, the 5-2 second choice on the program, can be dangerous for another familiar face. Trained by Doug O'Neill, No Jepordy comes off a game maiden win in a 1 1/8-mile turf race at Santa Anita on Feb. 2. He faces winners, dirt, and new surroundings, all for the first time. He does appear to be blossoming, however, for O'Neill, who has invaded before to win two of the last five WinStar Derbies, with Thor's Echo and Excessivepleasure. Surely a big run here by No Jepordy will earn him a chance to give O'Neill a hat trick in the WinStar. Iggy Puglisi will ride.

Mr. Golden Ruler has flourished since coming to Sunland. After a dull debut in the mud at Zia Park on Dec. 10, he whipped maidens on Jan. 2 locally and then was a good second against allowance foes on Jan. 19.

Cape Time likewise has done better at Sunland. He just beat maidens going a mile on Jan. 19.

Capetown Royal, third in his only career start, the Riley Allison Futurity here on Dec. 30, completes the field.