04/30/2004 11:00PM

Three Chimneys: Lunarpal rolls under Sellers


Given a choice, it's best to choose wisely. Shane Sellers did just that for Saturday's $115,400 Three Chimneys Juvenile at Churchill Downs. Sellers had ridden both Goes and Lunarpal to debut victories last month at Keeneland for trainer Steve Asmussen and was allowed by Asmussen to choose between the two for the Three Chimneys.

Sellers went with Lunarpal, then held on tight as he sped five furlongs in 57.98 seconds to record a five-length victory in the Three Chimneys, the traditional Derby Day stakes race for 2-year-olds.

"It was a tough decision for me," Sellers said. "The exciting thing about this colt is he showed so much professionalism for a first-time starter."

Lunarpal broke sharply from his outside stall and moved quickly to engage the filly Classic Elegance heading into the far turn. Lunarpal moved past Classic Elegance with a quarter-mile remaining, but immediately faced a fresh challenge from stablemate Goes.

The challenge was short-lived. Lunarpal kicked clear from Goes with an impressive burst of speed and drew away. Goes, sapped from his mid-race move, faded in the stretch to finish fourth. The filly Gallant Secret rallied for second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Classic Elegance, who finished third.

Lunarpal and Goes are owned and were bred by Bill Heiligbrodt, but they raced as separate betting interests in the five-horse field. Lunarpal, the 6-5 favorite, paid $4.60.

Lunarpal, a colt by Successful Appeal, began his career with a seven-length victory at Keeneland on April 18. His race was faster than that of Goes, but Goes had the benefit of nine extra days between starts. Lunarpal was returning just 13 days after his debut.

Asmussen said he would point Lunarpal to Churchill's summer stakes for 2-year-olds, such as the Bashford Manor. The Three Chimneys and Bashford Manor were won last year by Todd Pletcher-trained Limehouse, who came back one year later to compete in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

"Hopefully we can do what Todd did with Limehouse," Asmussen said.