03/28/2008 11:00PM

Salute the Sarge joins Derby chase

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Save a spot on the Kentucky Derby trail for Salute the Sarge.

Saturday at Santa Anita, Salute the Sarge made a successful 3-year-old debut in the $78,000 San Miguel Stakes over six furlongs, a race that trainer Eric Guillot says was a prep for the $325,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19.

Ridden by Michael Baze, Salute the Sarge rallied from fourth in a field of five to win the San Miguel Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over Leonides. Sea of Pleasure, the even-money favorite, finished third in the field of five, after dueling for the lead through early fractions of 21.47 and 44.08 seconds.

Salute the Sarge ran six furlongs in 1:09.07. The San Miguel was his first start since a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Monmouth Park last October. He emerged from that race with a sore ankle that kept him sidelined through the winter.

Owned by Mike Moreno's Southern Equine Racing, Salute the Sarge has won 4 of 7 starts and $333,340.

Last summer, Salute the Sarge won the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship and Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes before finishing second in two Grade 1 stakes - the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk Stakes.