12/06/2004 12:00AM

At this rate, Texcess may target Derby

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VINTON, La. - Texcess keeps trumping himself. He won his maiden in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile in October. He defeated open company in his first attempt in November. And on Saturday night, he won a $1 million race in just his fourth career start when he captured the Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs.

So what will he do for an encore? The Kentucky Derby would be nice. That is a race to which Paul Aguirre, who co-owns and trains Texcess, would like to see the gelding advance. But the first order of business, Aguirre said, is to prepare Texcess for a possible start in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Rafael at Santa Anita on Jan. 15.

"Obviously, we have high aspirations," said Aguirre. "If we could get on the Kentucky Derby trail, that would be fantastic. We do think he has the quality."

Texcess has won three of four starts and was flattered the day before the Jackpot, when Chips Are Down, whom he defeated in the open-company allowance, came back and impressively won an allowance prep for the Hollywood Futurity.

Texcess has also proved effective with distance, which belies the top side of his pedigree.

"This horse is by In Excess, and a lot of people think if they're by In Excess they don't go the distance," said Victor Espinoza, who rode Texcess in the Jackpot. "But this horse is such a big horse and has such a long stride, he doesn't have to move too fast. I think he's good for the distance."

Aguirre also noted that Gimme the Willys, a half-sister to Texcess, was a winner at 1 3/8 miles. The horses are out of the Regal Classic mare Danish Alamode.

In the Jackpot, Texcess pushed a hot pace, darted clear on the final turn, then drove to a 1 1/2-length win over Closing Argument. The race was run on a six-furlong oval, and Texcess covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:48.83. The track, which was fast, was characterized as tiring by some riders, no doubt the result of heavy rain the night before. For his effort in the race, Texcess earned an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.

"It was his third race in six weeks, and he ran well enough to win," said Aguirre. "The elements were difficult and he ran very fast early, but he got through it okay. I am considering taking the blinkers off him. I think he's getting a little too speed-crazy."

Aguirre said Texcess was in good shape but was tired when he arrived back at his Hollywood Park base Sunday. Texcess gave Aguirre and his partner, Omar Aldabbagh, their richest career wins in the Jackpot.

Aguirre was at Delta preparing Texcess for the Jackpot leading up to the race, but flew out before Saturday because his 5-year-old daughter was performing in her first ice skating competition. Denise Falk, Aguirre's assistant who also gallops Texcess, saddled the horse Saturday.

Closing Argument to Sunshine Millions?

Closing Argument was back at his Palm Meadows base near Miami early Monday morning, and has a couple of different options for his next start, said his trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin.

One is the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash for 3-year-olds on Jan. 29.

"It's only six furlongs, but he can do either," said McLaughlin. "Or, we might keep him long and look at the Holy Bull. We just have to pick out what direction to go."

The Grade 3, $150,000 Holy Bull will be held at Gulfstream on Feb. 5.

Closing Argument won the $200,000 NATC Futurity at six furlongs Sept. 4, and in his two-turn debut in October ran third in the $400,000 In Reality division of the Florida Stallion Stakes.

Anthony J., who rallied from eighth to third in the Jackpot, does not have set plans yet, but is nominated to the 3-year-old series at Gulfstream, said his trainer, Bill Perry.

"I thought he closed a lot of ground as opposed to most horses on the night," said Perry. "He ran a good race, that little horse."

Perry added blinkers on Anthony J. for the Jackpot. Anthony J. is a ridgling and is based at Gulfstream.

"We're going to back off him a little bit and just let him catch his breath," said Perry.

Punch Appeal possible for Tiffany Lass

Punch Appeal, who earned a 93 Beyer Figure for her 5 1/2-length romp in the $250,000 Delta Princess, is now targeting the $100,000 Tiffany Lass at Fair Grounds on Jan. 15, said her trainer, Steve Asmussen. The win in the Princess was the fifth stakes win this year for Punch Appeal.

"She's an awesome filly," said Asmussen. "For a 2-year-old to win on as many tracks as she has - she's six for nine now and has earned [close to] $400,000 - she's a racehorse."