12/13/2005 12:00AM

Sky's the limit for A.P. Warrior

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A $1.3 million yearling in 2004, A.P. Warrior is now one of the rising stars among West Coast-based 2-year-olds. He take his next major step in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Hollywood Futurity.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - has always been in a hurry. He cost $1.3 million as a yearling, then won first time out. That's precocious. At Del Mar this summer, however, that eagerness became overheated. Since then, his connections have managed A.P. Warrior, both on and off the track, with their sights set on the far horizon. It's paying off.

A.P. Warrior heads into Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Hollywood Futurity at Hollywood Park as one of the rising stars among the West Coast's 2-year-olds. He comes off a powerful allowance victory on Nov. 4 against Bob and John, who subsequently finished first - before being disqualified in a controversial decision - in the Real Quiet Stakes on Nov. 26. A.P. Warrior also has turned in three successive best-of-the-morning drills, making him one of the top contenders for the 1 1/16-mile Futurity.

There have been several key points in his brief four-race career. A.P. Warrior showed his greenness at Del Mar, when he ran off in the post parade before a scheduled start in the Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 14, then sprinted like a Quarter Horse at the start of the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 7.

"Del Mar for this horse was just a disaster," said his trainer, Eoin Harty.

That set A.P. Warrior behind in his development. So, despite a troubled second-place finish to Brother Derek in the Norfolk Stakes on Oct. 2 - an effort that was certainly good enough to send A.P. Warrior to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile - owner Stan Fulton told Harty to bypass the Breeders' Cup and instead focus on the long term.

"Mr. Fulton was adamant," Harty said. "His Beyer numbers were not fantastic. His sheet numbers were not fantastic. After the disaster at Del Mar, he was adamant about not going. It was all his call. The colt had some catching up to do. He had to get his head together. In hindsight, it was the right move."

Harty is one of several trainers employed by Fulton. Harty said it was "just by the grace of God that this horse fell into my lap" and did not go to another trainer. Harty was a long-time assistant to Bob Baffert during the years when Silver Charm and Real Quiet won the Kentucky Derby, and then worked developing 2-year-olds as a private trainer for the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing.

Harty still trains horses for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum under the Darley Stable banner, but he now has a large public stable with horses at both Santa Anita and the Palm Meadows training center in Florida. Training a promising 2-year-old like A.P. Warrior is right in his wheelhouse.

A.P. Warrior, a son of A.P. Indy, made his first start on July 17 at Hollywood Park and won by four lengths under Garrett Gomez. "I wasn't surprised he broke his maiden first time out, but I was surprised at the way he did it," Harty said. "He was trapped inside, waited, had to split horses, and drew off."

Harty then entered A.P. Warrior in the Best Pal, which was to be used as a prep for the Del Mar Futurity. But when A.P. Warrior came on the track for the Best Pal, he dumped Gomez and ran off.

"He shied from something in the crowd," Harty said.

Without that race, and jittery about coming through Del Mar's tunnel, A.P. Warrior had lost valuable time and experience coming up to the Del Mar Futurity.

"We would school him, but he had some phobia coming out onto the track. He wanted to duck to the right," Harty said.

"For the [Del Mar Futurity], I had the pony boy meet him in the tunnel. I thought it would be best when he came on the track to go to the right, rather than the left with the post parade. I told the stewards what I was going to do, because I thought it was in the best interests of the horse and the betting public. They said if he didn't go to the left, with the post parade, he'd be scratched.

"So they try to take him to the left, he ducks to the right, and the pony takes him to the right. But then the outrider comes up and said the stewards said if he didn't come back to the post parade, he'd be scratched."

The prerace tug of war might have unnerved A.P. Warrior, who tore out of the gate under Patrick Valenzuela and was part of a scalding early pace. He faded to sixth as Stevie Wonderboy, under Gomez, rallied for the victory.

Valenzuela was aboard for A.P. Warrior's second-place finish in the Norfolk, and for the allowance victory here on Nov. 4, but he has decided to ride Your Tent or Mine in the Hollywood Futurity. So, Gomez will be back aboard Saturday for the first time since the Best Pal debacle.

But Harty is convinced A.P. Warrior is a different horse than four months ago.

"His last race was huge," Harty said. "Patrick made the effort to get him back. He switched off, and then he showed that turn of foot we knew he had. He's worked really well since the race. He won't be short."