02/27/2004 1:00AM

Rocky Gulch draws well


SUNLAND PARK, N. M. - A mixed bag of eleven horses is entered for Sunday's $100,000-added , the final local prep for the $500,000 WinStar Derby on March 28, and with a short run into the first turn, luck of the draw may be the deciding factor.

Make no mistake, the luck fell on the side of Rocky Gulch, a New Mexico-bred speedball, who drew post two. Judiciously trained to this point by Terry Walker, Rocky Gulch will try to make the transition to open company after winning five of six against statebreds, with his only loss coming as a result of immaturity last April. Rocky Gulch already owns a two-turn win at Sunland Park and has tractable speed. Anyone who goes with him is likely to get cooked, and if he is left alone, he may just draw off.

A series of impressive works indicate Rocky Gulch is ready for the challenge. Mike Clark has the mount at 121 pounds.

Luck was not on the side of Korbyn Gold, who drew post 11 with Ken Tohill and was assigned 121 pounds by racing secretary Norm Amundson. Korbyn Gold, owned by Heiligbrodt Racing, was last seen finishing sixth at 6-5 in the Riley Allison Futurity. Having been given a break by trainer Steve Asmussen, Korbyn Gold has been preparing for this race at Sam Houston. Korbyn Gold won stakes last year at Lone Star and Arlington, and with the Allison being his ninth start of the year, a break from action could very well put him back in peak form.

Many of the Borderland entrants have modest credentials but figure to improve. Foremost among these is Grande's Grandslam, whom trainer David Carroll will be sending in from Fair Grounds. Owned by Sunland owner Stan Fulton, Grande's Grandslam didn't impress in two one-turn races in Kentucky last fall, but came to life in two subsequent two-turn races in New Orleans this winter, most recently winning his maiden by more than nine lengths. Jose Martinez will ride at 117 pounds.

Two other Sunland-based horses have black type on their resume and pose a threat. Hi Teck Man, trained by Johnnie Nall, owns a pair of stakes wins on the circuit, closed well to be second in the Allison, and won at a mile in his last out in allowance company, his first try at a distance. Jon Arnette will send out Western Ridge, who most recently traveled to Phoenix and was disqualified from first in the Rattlesnake Stakes at one mile.

* Trainer Joel Marr has opted not to pursue the $250,000 bonus that would go to any horse who could sweep the Riley Allison Futurity, Borderland, and WinStar, by electing to give Allison winner Tin Can Sailor a freshening.

"I just felt he wasn't ready to go two turns with these horses yet, so we turned him out for a while," Marr said.