05/12/2005 11:00PM

Silver Haze lone turf winner in Excalibur


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Turf experience is a little hard to come by in Sunday's Excalibur Stakes, and as the only winner on the surface, Silver Haze should rule as a strong choice. He will face six rivals in the one-mile turf feature, which carries a $50,000 purse.

Owned by Kaaren Biggs and trained by Steve Wren, , who brought $85,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales auction last March, was toying with Derby aspirations earlier in the year. After a pair of wins and a stakes placing as a 2-year-old, the son of Silver Deputy finished a creditable fourth to Storm Surge in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in his first start of the year.

Then it was off to Oaklawn for a start in the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes, where things started to unravel as Silver Haze finished sixth to Derby starter Greater Good. Following a similar effort in a nonwinners-of-three allowance route the first week in March, Silver Haze moved to the sidelines for some freshening.

"He just didn't care for the surface at Hot Springs," Wren said Friday morning. "I know that sounds a little like a cop-out, but he just was not himself up there. He didn't train well over it, and when he got to the quarter pole when the running started, he would just regress. We knew he was a better colt than what he showed."

Silver Haze resurfaced on the grass here on opening weekend two weeks ago in a $75,000 claimer and, under confident handling by E.J. Perrodin, made short work of six foes, kicking clear by four lengths. That marked the second appearance on the local turf for Silver Haze, who finished fourth here in the Harrah's Juvenile Stakes as a 2-year-old. Perrodin will once again be aboard on Sunday.

Several in the Excalibur will be making their turf debuts, including three-time winner . Trained by Chad Hassenflug, South Beach Boy is coming off an allowance score over the Lone Star dirt in his last start. Ricky Faul will be in to ride.

will not only be making his first start on turf Sunday, but also his first around two turns. He turned in an impressive rally in the Inaugural Handicap at Evangeline Downs on April 7, where he picked up his first stakes win by an expanding 7 1/2 lengths. C.J. Woodley, aboard for that victory and for a sharp allowance score here last fall, will handle the riding chores again for trainer Troy Young.