06/14/2008 12:00AM

Pyro puts Derby dud behind him


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Six weeks earlier, Pyro was a virtual no-show in the 134th Kentucky Derby. But in his first start since running eighth in the Derby, Pyro was back in a big way Saturday - getting a perfect trip under Shaun Bridgmohan and drawing off to a 1 3/4-length triumph in the Grade 3 Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Sitting a pretty third for much of the 1 1/16-mile race, Pyro angled out for the drive, overtook Texas Wildcatter and My Pal Charlie, shrugged off an outside bid from Visionaire, and put a smile back on trainer Steve Asmussen's face.

"Steve and his crew did a fabulous job having him ready today," said Bridgmohan.

Pyro returned $5.60 as second choice after finishing in 1:43.53 over a fast track. My Pal Charlie finished another 2 1/4 lengths before Visionaire, who had another 1 1/4 lengths on Recapturetheglory, the 11-10 favorite in a field of six 3-year-olds.

The one-two results were the same as in the March 8 Louisiana Derby, when Pyro's three-length victory over My Pal Charlie made him one of the clear-cut favorites for the May 3 Derby. But a 10th-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes in his final Derby prep, followed by his disappointing Derby run, led Asmussen to back off and aim for something more moderate, with the Northern Dancer being the comeback target.

"Hopefully this was the first step on a very good second half of the season for him," said Asmussen.

The seventh running of the Northern Dancer unfolded somewhat curiously.

Recapturetheglory, the expected front-runner in a field of six 3-year-olds, was away a half-step slowly from his inside gate, leaving My Pal Charlie and Texas Wildcatter on the lead, with Pyro lurking just behind while saving ground.

"We got away bad, and after that they had me covered up," said E.T. Baird, the rider of Recapturetheglory.

Pyro, a Pulpit colt bred and owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, earned $117,345 from the total purse of $190,925, giving him 4 wins from 9 lifetime starts and $1,174,063.