04/04/2008 11:00PM

Recapturetheglory leads every step

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STICKNEY, Ill. – The last several months have not been the smoothest for jockey E. T. Baird. After a big summer at Arlington, Baird and major owner Frank Calabrese went separate ways, and Baird abandoned his new winter base at Fair Grounds after a week. He then showed up at Gulfstream the first week in February - but none of this has changed the essence of Baird. The man has made his reputation deftly guiding horses onto the lead at Chicago tracks - which is exactly what he did in engineering Recapturetheglory's upset victory Saturday in the Illinois Derby here at Hawthorne.

Breaking on top from post 1, Recapturetheglory and Baird took advantage of at least a mildly speed-favoring racetrack, turning back a mild challenge from Golden Spikes and going on to a four-length win. Victory in the Grade 2, $500,000 race came in Recapturetheglory's stakes debut, and was just his second win. Recapturetheglory won a two-turn maiden race in the fall, ran second to Cool Coal Man in a Churchill Downs allowance race, then took a 45-day break. He made his comeback in a turf allowance race Feb. 29 at Fair Grounds, arrived at Hawthorne 10 days ago, and ran his way into a Kentucky Derby berth for trainer and co-owner Louis Roussel. Roussel, who was in New Orleans on Saturday, is partners on Recapturetheglory with Ronny Lamarque, the same team that brought Risen Star to the Triple Crown in 1988.

Roussel said Saturday evening that Recapturetheglory would go on to the Kentucky Derby, and that Baird would ride. Recapturetheglory, who Roussel is named after Risen Star, was made a late Triple Crown nominee for a $6,000 fee on March 27. He will ship to Churchill as soon as Roussel travels there from New Orleans, and will have two works before the Derby, Roussel said.

Recapturetheglory, who paid $19.20 to win, was really the only horse running at the finish, and was timed in 1:49.01 for nine furlongs on a fast track. Golden Spikes, who pressed the pace, finished second, followed by Z Humor, who ran in third almost all the way around. In fourth was second-choice Atoned, while 4-5 favorite Denis of Cork checked in a disappointing fifth.

Denis of Cork never appeared comfortable on the Hawthorne main track. Jockey Julien Leparoux was niggling on the colt to try and keep pace as early as six furlongs from the finish, and Denis of Cork raced evenly while wide in the stretch.

"Julien said he never seemed comfortable," trainer David Carroll said. "He just never looked like he was traveling well."

Recapturetheglory debuted at Arlington last summer under the tutelage of Lara Garbig, in whose name the Roussel horses raced last year in Chicago.

"We always liked him," said Garbig, who saddled Recapturetheglory on Saturday. "He just hit a few stumbling blocks early on."

On the lead through a half-mile in a moderate 48.61 seconds, and with plenty of horse on the far turn, Baird found himself in a familiar position.

"I knew it was going to take something special to catch me," said Baird.