03/17/2006 1:00AM

Sharp Humor puts zip in Fla. Derby

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Dale Romans has Sharp Humor pointed to the Florida Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Anybody worried about an honest pace for the $1 million Florida Derby need worry no more, now that trainer Dale Romans has committed Sharp Humor to the meet's marquee event on April 1.

Sharp Humor has won his last three starts, all stakes, including the Grade 2, seven-furlong Swale in his 3-year-old debut on March 4. A New York-bred son of Distorted Humor, Sharp Humor has been on or with the pace in each of his six starts, and Romans said he is not about to change his horse's style now.

"He's a fast horse, so he'll probably be on the lead or close to it," Romans said. "The question now is to see whether he can go the distance. If he gives us an indication he can in the Florida Derby, it will give us plenty of time to prepare him for the Kentucky Derby."

Romans and his owners, the Purdedel Stable, weighed several options for Sharp Humor's final Kentucky Derby prep since his game neck victory in the Swale on March 4, including both the Illinois Derby and Blue Grass. They deferred their final decision until after Sharp Humor worked five furlongs in 59 seconds at Palm Meadows under George Martens on Thursday.

"I had him gallop a mile before working to see if he'd finish well, and he did," said Romans. "In the end, we decided that we're here, the timing is good, the purse is big, and he's already run well over this racetrack. So it just made the most sense to go to the Florida Derby."

Mark Guidry, who guided Sharp Humor to victory in the Swale, will ride him again in the Florida Derby.

Lewis Michael to Illinois Derby

While Sharp Humor will stay home for his next start, trainer Wayne Catalano said that in all likelihood he will ship his top 3-year-old Lewis Michael out of town to the Illinois Derby. Lewis Michael has been a turf specialist up to this point of his career, but Catalano scratched the son of Rahy out of last Sunday's Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes to give him a shot to earn a trip to the Kentucky Derby.

Lewis Michael, a stakes winner on grass at 2, finished third in Calder's Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby in his 3-year-old debut. He worked five furlongs in 1:00 over the main track at Palm Meadows on Friday.

"He worked very well on dirt, so we're going to give him a chance to earn his way into the Kentucky Derby," said Catalano, who trains Lewis Michael for owner Frank Calabrese. "This is the time of year when 3-year-olds come to life, and it seems the lightbulb is just starting to come on with him. Mr. Calabrese has already returned to Illinois and likes to run in his own back yard, so we'll roll the dice out there."

Kelly's Landing sharp in return

Kelly's Landing made a triumphant return from knee surgery on Thursday, cruising to a 2 1/2-length victory in an allowance field that included three other graded-stakes winners. Kelly's Landing covered six furlongs in 1:08.58 under jockey Edgar Prado, just 0.12 second off the track record, and earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure while winning with something left.

"It was perfect for the first start back," said trainer Eddie Kenneally. "He ran quick, but Edgar didn't have to beat him up to do it."

Kenneally said Kelly's Landing would likely make his next start in Keeneland's Grade 2, seven-furlong Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes on April 15.

"The timing is good for the Commonwealth because it gives us 30 days between starts," said Kenneally.

Sweet Symphony, Balletto in Rampart

The Grade 2 Rampart Handicap closed with 19 nominations, led by Sweet Symphony and Balletto. The 1 1/8-mile race for older fillies and mares will be run on March 25.

Sweet Symphony won her first four starts at 3, including the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes by six lengths, before closing out the year finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Beldame and ninth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. She is trained by Bill Mott for the Kinsman Stable.

Balletto has not started since finishing second behind Sweet Catomine in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Lone Star. Owned by Darley Stable and trained by Tom Albertrani, Balletto won the Grade 1 Frizette at 2.

* Trainer Nick Zito sent out 3-year-old prospect Superfly for a bullet five-eighths work in 59.20 seconds Friday. Superfly finished a tiring third as the 4-5 favorite behind Florida Derby candidates Sunriver and High Blues under first-level allowance conditions on March 4.