04/22/2006 12:00AM

Showing Up remains perfect

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Lightly raced Showing Up will bring a 3-for-3 record into the Kentucky Derby following his win in the Lexington.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Throw another vexing variable into your Kentucky Derby equation.

Showing Up won like a good horse in the final major Derby prep, the Grade 2 on Saturday at Keeneland, adding yet another intriguing element to what already was a challenging Derby.

With his 1 1/4-length triumph over Like Now in the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, Showing Up remained undefeated in three career starts and becomes the second unbeaten Derby hopeful for his owner, the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson. Barbaro, the Florida Derby winner who enters the May 6 Derby at Churchill Downs as one of the favorites with a 5-for-5 record, is the other Lael prospect. If both colts start as expected, they would represent the first pair of unbeatens for one owner in Derby history.

Showing Up, the 3-2 favorite in a field of 10, really had to work for his victory in the Lexington. Although Showing Up - who had shown brilliant speed in his first two victories - broke smoothly from post 2, he was a well-back fifth through the early going.

"He scared the heck out of me," said trainer Barclay Tagg.

On a sun-splashed Saturday that drew 27,514 fans, Like Now and the speedy California invader, Fast Parade, dueled closely through fractions of 23.37 and 46.85 seconds, with Fast Parade being the first to surrender. While Like Now was confronted by Bear Character leaving the far turn, Showing Up, who had saved ground for most of the trip under Cornelio Velasquez, wheeled to the outside and eventually wore them both down, finishing in 1:46.42 over fast going.

Like Now, the 4-1 second choice off an upset victory in the Grade 3 Gotham at Aqueduct, gamely saved second by a neck over Bear Character, who at 39-1 was the longest shot in the field. Greeley's Legacy, the 5-1 third choice, was fourth, another three lengths back.

With a winner's share of $201,500 from the $325,000 purse, Showing Up is guaranteed a spot in the Derby. "We'll probably run, but first let's see how he comes out of this," said Tagg, whose lone Derby starter was the 2003 winner, Funny Cide.

Showing Up, a Florida-bred chestnut by Strategic Mission, returned $5 to win in his stakes debut.

Like Now earned $65,000 and now has enough earnings to be in the Derby, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he was not necessarily inclined to run unless owner John Dillon wants to go.

Among the Lexington also-rans was eighth-place finisher Hemingway's Key, who represented the last chance for two-time winning trainer Nick Zito to have a runner in the Derby this year. Said Zito, who had a record-tying five Derby starters last year: "All spring, we never got a horse in one of those top-25 polls," said Zito. "We never made the cut."

P. Val gets mount on Keyed Entry

Trainer Todd Pletcher has named Patrick Valenzuela to ride Keyed Entry in the Derby and said Saturday he "still has several guys in the mix" for the mount on Bluegrass Cat, who most likely would have been ridden by John Velazquez. With Velazquez sidelined indefinitely with a shoulder injury suffered Thursday in a spill at Keeneland, Pletcher said Ramon Dominguez is "one of the riders we're considering" for Bluegrass Cat.

Pletcher said he has not yet firmed up a jockey in case his third Derby hopeful, Sunriver, makes it into the race. Through the weekend, Sunriver was not among the top 20 graded earners being pointed to the Derby; that list determines eligibility.

Cause to Believe Kentucky-bound

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will ship Cause to Believe to Churchill Downs on Tuesday to complete preparations for the Kentucky Derby. Cause to Believe has won both the Grade 3 El Camino Real and California derbies this year. He was third to Sweetnorthernsaint in his last start, the Grade 2 Illinois Derby.

"It's really the way the race is shaping up. Right now, we're saying there's a lot of speed in the race," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.

Cause to Believe worked six furlongs in 1:12.55 before Saturday's first race at Golden Gate Fields. His final furlong was timed in 12.02 seconds.

Russell Baze, who was aboard Cause to Believe, was pleased with the work, particularly the way Cause to Believe finished.

"That's his forte," Baze said. "I tried to make him work a little more the whole way to make sure he had some air in him."

Hollendorfer, who will arrive at Churchill Downs on Wednesday, will also ship Trickey Trevor and Lion Andthe Lamb to Louisville. Trickey Trevor is nominated to the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on Derby Day; Lion Andthe Lamb to the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint on Friday, May 5.

* Churchill officials are listing at least six 3-year-olds as probables for the $100,000 Derby Trial, the ungraded race that kicks off the Louisville track's spring meet this Saturday. Those prospects are Mister Triester, Noonmark, Court Folly, Record, Dawn of War, and Protagonus.

* In Kentucky Oaks news, Balance had her first workout since a disappointing third-place finish in the April 8 Ashland Stakes when she went five furlongs in 59.60 seconds Saturday at Hollywood Park. Balance is one of as many as 17 fillies being pointed to the May 5 Oaks.

- additional reporting by Chuck Dybdal