07/17/2005 12:00AM

Sun King wires Leonard Richards


STANTON, Del. - High Limit looked like the lone speed in a field of five 3-year-olds, a prime reason the public made the winner of the Louisiana Derby a solid 3-5 choice in Sunday's $300,000 at Delaware Park.

But when High Limit broke in a tangle, Rafael Bejarano, riding Sun King alertly urged his colt to the lead.

Although the Richards was contested at 1 1/16 miles, what happened in the first few seconds after the gate opened had a huge impact on the outcome. Saving ground throughout while High Limit got hung out three wide on the first turn, Sun King put away his chief rival entering the stretch and drew off to a 5 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Richards.

Golden Man, who was expected to scratch after finishing third in Saturday's Long Branch at Monmouth Park, rallied strongly to overtake High Limit for second.

Sun King ($7), winning for the first time since the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby in March, covered the distance on a fast track in 1:43.33.

Zito said Bejarano had the proper instinct to ask Sun King for early speed after noticing that High Limit, who broke just outside his mount in post 2, didn't leave cleanly.

"High Limit didn't break and Rafael did the right thing by going to the lead," Zito said. "When you're in a race and the favorite doesn't break, that's what you've got to do."

Sun King raced in blinkers for the first time after three straight disappointing performances in the Blue Grass Stakes, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness.

"When a horse isn't running well, you've got to try something," Zito said. "I didn't use severe blinkers. He had a lot of space where he could see, but it was enough of a blinker to make him concentrate."

Zito tipped his hat to Golden Man, who closed willingly making his second start in 24 hours after not racing at all since May 28.

"What's even more amazing is that he had to travel to do it," Zito said. "If you watch the replay, he really galloped out strongly. If the race was a mile and an eighth, he probably would have won."

Sun King could make his next start in the West Virginia Derby, a race Zito won last year with Sir Shackleton.

* Umpateedle ($22), stalking about three lengths off the early pace rather than her customary position close to the front, ran down 2-1 favorite Storm Minstrel in deep stretch to score a three-quarter-length victory in the $101,00 Light Hearted Handicap for filly and mare sprinters. It was the 15th lifetime victory in 49 starts for the 6-year-old Umpateedle, whose $60,000 share of the purse boosted her bankroll past the $500,000 mark.

Clinton Potts rode Umpateedle for trainer Mark Shuman and owner Michael Gill.

* Hydrogen ($6.40), one of only two horses with more than one win on dirt, held off Stage Call by a half-length in the $55,000 Cape Henlopen. A field of 13 was reduced to five runners when the 1.5-mile marathon was moved from the turf course to the main track.