07/02/2004 11:00PM

Quantum Merit rolls in stretch

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Del Carroll II rarely ships horses from his New York base to Kentucky, but when he does, look out.

For the second straight year, Carroll sent out the winner of the , as Quantum Merit drew away to his fourth straight victory by capturing the one-mile turf race Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Patiently reserved by Shane Sellers off a hot pace, Quantum Merit rolled to the lead in midstretch of the $287,750 race to finish 1 1/2 lengths clear of Senor Swinger. Perfect Soul, the 9-5 favorite in a field of nine older horses, finished another two lengths back in third, but because Senor Swinger was deemed guilty of interfering with him approaching the eighth pole, Perfect Soul was placed second and Senor Swinger was lowered to third.

"We really did want Shane to be the rider of this horse because he was so familiar with the other horses in the race," said Carroll, who won the Grade 2 Firecracker last year with Tap the Admiral.

Quantum Merit, a New York-bred, returned $13.40 as fourth choice after finishing in 1:34.15 over a firm turf course. A 5-year-old gelding by Hansel, Quantum Merit is owned by the Very Un Stable. His previous race resulted in a narrow win in the May 23 Kingston against statebreds at Belmont Park.

Amid sultry conditions, Royal Spy and Puget Sound raced off to a big lead while Sellers got the normally speedy Quantum Merit to settle about six lengths behind the leaders. After turning for home, Quantum Merit made what proved to be his winning move while Senor Swinger, ridden by Pat Day, suddenly careened outward and into the path of Perfect Soul.

"It was actually a move of self preservation more than anything," said Day, noting that a leg-weary Puget Sound had suddenly veered into his path. "I had to alter course without getting a chance to see if anybody was coming."

For Senor Swinger, the 2-1 second choice, the defeat was his first in five tries over the Churchill grass course.

Carroll is not very familiar to Kentucky horseplayers even though his late father, Del Carroll, frequented Churchill and Keeneland before being killed in a training accident at Keeneland in 1981.