05/23/2002 11:00PM

Sprint king Royal Lad to rule Marco Bay


MIAMI - Royal Lad, the undisputed leader of the 3-year-old sprint division here this spring, should have little trouble adding to his impressive resume, facing seven rivals in Sunday's $35,000 Marco Bay Stakes.

Royal Lad has won his last three starts, each at a different venue, beginning with the Ocala Breeders' Sprint Championship in Ocala on March 18. That victory was followed by a tough allowance win at Gulfstream Park 17 days later and a sensational 6 1/2-length triumph in the Silver Season Handicap here earlier this month.

Royal Lad's only setbacks this year came this winter at Gulfstream when he finished fourth in the Grade 3 Spectacular Bid Stakes and third in the Grade 2 Hutcheson.

Cornelio Velasquez will replace Eibar Coa aboard Royal Lad, whose next major goal is the $250,000 Carry Back Stakes here on July 13.

Among Royal Lad's chief rivals in the 6 1/2-furlong Marco Bay are The Judge Sez Who and Thiscannonsloaded, both of whom may have designs on the $100,000 Unbridled Stakes around two turns on June 22.

The Judge Sez Who will be making his first start since finishing second as the 8-5 favorite behind the front-running Political Attack in the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day. A late-running son of Judge T C, The Judge Sez Who ran off four straight sprint victories early in his 2-year-old campaign, but appears at his best going a route of ground.

Thiscannonsloaded has been idle since finishing a well-beaten third behind Booklet and Harlan's Holiday in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 19. Now trained by Vincenzo Lombardi for owner Ralph Sessa, Thiscannonsloaded won a pair of sprints at 2 and finished second in the seven-furlong Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Series.

The lightly raced but promising Swift Replica and Kingmaker make their stakes debuts in the Marco Bay. Also expected to be in the starting gate are Devil's Dust, Barnacle Steve, and Sebastian Light.

The 1 1/16-mile Unbridled could prove an entertaining race if The Judge Sez Who and Thiscannonsloaded come out of Sunday's prep in good order.

Among the 3-year-olds already eyeing the Unbridled are Rocker and Puck, who were finished first and second, respectively, in the Primal Stakes earlier this week.

Memorial Day 'Cap draws only four

The $100,000 Memorial Day Handicap on Monday was finally assigned graded status for the first time this year, but despite that fact only four horses were entered for the Grade 3 race. The field comprises: defending champion Hal's Hope, 2000 Memorial Day Handicap winner Dancing Guy, 123-pound highweight and likely favorite Best of the Rest, and High Ideal.

"We finally got a graded race here in the summer and then blow it by only getting four horses to enter," racing secretary Bob Umphrey said in frustration shortly before the Memorial Day Handicap was drawn on Friday.

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