04/10/2003 11:00PM

Royal Spy has career day

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Tom Amoss was not there Friday, sending assistant Chris Richard instead to Keeneland because Amoss had a horse in the next day's Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. But jockey Robby Albarado was there, and in the case of Royal Spy, that seems to be the key.

Albarado had won once on Royal Spy, earlier this year in the Col. Bradley Handicap at Fair Grounds. Reunited with Royal Spy after a subsequent poor effort, Albarado guided Royal Spy to the biggest victory of his career, an 11-1 upset in the Grade 2, $200,000 Maker's Mark Mile on a gorgeous spring afternoon.

Royal Spy ($25.20) attended a hot early pace set by Angel on the Wing, took over nearing the far turn, and resolutely held off Miesque's Approval in the stretch to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Touch of the Blues, who won this race last year, was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third while making his first start since last October's Breeders' Cup Mile.

Mister Acpen was fourth and was followed, in order, by Statement, 9-5 favorite Decarchy, Private Son, Political Attack - who stumbled at the start - and Angel on the Wing.

Royal Spy completed one mile on a firm course in 1:35.82.

Royal Spy has compiled an enviable win record - Friday's victory was his ninth in 21 outings - but he only now is returning to the top form he showed at age 3, when he scored a pair of overpowering stakes victories on the turf at Lone Star Park. He had never before won a graded stakes race.

"He likes to have a little target on the first turn, but once you turn up the backside he wants to get going," Albarado said. "I don't want to discourage him, so I let him go. He does it within himself."

Royal Spy covered the first half-mile in 46.69 seconds, and on a course that often devours front-runners, he looked vulnerable when Miesque's Approval began to close on the far turn.

But Royal Spy kicked clear at midstretch, and Miesque's Approval never could threaten him in the final furlong.

"I can give him a breather on the turn, and then he can sprint home," Albarado said. "A mile is a perfect distance for him, because he can kick. The horses that go steady, steady, steady, they catch him on the gallop out, but by then it's too late."

Royal Spy, a 5-year-old horse by Peteski, was bred and is owned by Drs. K.K. and V. Devi Jayaraman.

* In the day's final race, Perfect Drift, making his first start since the Breeders' Cup Classic, won a one-mile allowance race in his first start on turf. Perfect Drift was third in last year's Kentucky Derby, and he also won the Indiana Derby and Spiral Stakes. Kent Desormeaux was up and earned his third win of the afternoon.