02/08/2005 1:00AM

Three-year-olds drop hints of future

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Noble Causeway wins his maiden Saturday in his fourth start for Nick Zito.

LAS VEGAS - Gulfstream Park was 3-year-old heaven last Saturday. Eight of the 11 races were for 3-year-olds, and in addition to the Holy Bull and Hutcheson stakes for colts, and the Davona Dale and Old Hat stakes for fillies, there were two allowances and two maiden special weight races to spice up the superb program.

The Hutcheson is always a good horse race for 3-year-old sprinters and milers, but there were no Kentucky Derby winners in this year's renewal.

Proud Accolade ran one of the most impressive races of his career in the Hutcheson Stakes. He was shuffled back and then had to steady as he approached the far turn, appearing to lose his momentum. Swung wide to the outside, he re-grouped and blew by his field with authority. While there are serious concerns about his ability to get 1 1/4 miles, there is no questioning his class. By one of last year's exceptional freshman sires, Yes It's True, Proud Accolade should have a stellar year if kept to distances up to one mile.

The big disappointment in the Hutcheson was Defer, the Laurel Futurity winner who was in good position but never looked comfortable. He looked agitated throughout the post parade and warm-up and never fired. By Danzig and out of stakes-placed Hidden Reserve (a full sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Educated Risk and current sire Diamond, and a half-sister to champion Inside Information), Defer still has plenty of potential, but he was not nearly as impressive as his stablemate Survivalist, who ran well despite being carried out wide in the stretch in an allowance earlier on the program.

Qureall, yet another son of Yes It's True, finished first in the second race, a seven-furlong allowance, but was disqualified to fifth after he angled sharply to the right, causing Holy Rocket to bump hard into Survivalist. Around the Cape, a speedy son of Carson City, was awarded first, but is not bred for 1 1/4 miles. Survivalist, another son of Danzig, was moved into second and should continue to progress. He is out of Miner's Game, a full sister to Seeking the Gold. Andromeda's Hero, one of a number of impressive winners from Fusaichi Pegasus's first crop and among the best 3-year-old prospects for Nick Zito, ran evenly in fourth. While never a threat, Andromeda's Hero still finished with interest, and more will be known about him as the distances increase. From a powerful King Ranch female family, his fifth dam is Equal Venture, a full sister to 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault.

Noble Causeway, a son of Giant's Causeway, won his maiden in his fourth career start for Zito in the fourth race, a maiden race at 1 1/8 miles. Noble Causeway was second in his previous two starts but pulled away from this group of maidens. Noble Causeway is out of Mimi's Golden Girl, a daughter of Seeking the Gold and stakes winner Classy Cathy.

The race with the most interest, however, was an allowance at 1 1/8 miles, because it featured four 3-year-olds who seem to have bright futures. After winning his most recent start by 4 1/4 lengths (over Noble Causeway), Bandini was the even-money choice in the 12-horse field. Drawing the rail for the two-turn event, Bandini showed speed from the outset and drew away with complete authority to register a nine-length victory. By the white-hot Fusaichi Pegasus (sire of Roman Ruler, Fusaichi Samurai, and Killenaule), Bandini has an equally impressive female family. His fourth dam is Moccasin, the undefeated 2-year-old filly champion and co-Horse of the Year in 1965. Moccasin was a full sister to stakes winners Ridan and Lt. Stevens and the stakes-placed Thong, who was the second dam of Nureyev and Fairy Bridge. Fairy Bridge is the dam of Sadler's Wells.

Making a big impression was Vitruvian, whose explosive turn of foot carried him from 11th to second against an overwhelming speed bias. While never a threat to Bandini, who had things his way on the front end, Vitruvian still finished 7 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Magic Speed. Vitruvian, by Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, is bred to love the Derby distance, and his female family has produced top-class stakes winners over many generations. In addition to his sire, Vitruvian is out of Aviance (Northfields), the dam of stakes winners Denon, Chimes of Freedom, and Imperfect Circle. Chimes of Freedom is the dam of champion Aldebaran, Good Journey, Sea of Showers, and Tomisue's Indy, and Imperfect Circle is the dam of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Spinning World.

Reverberate and Indy Storm, who finished fourth and fifth in the allowance, still have a license to improve. Reverberate, by Thunder Gulch and from a stout Darby Dan female line, is bred to run all day, and Indy Storm, a highly regarded A.P. Indy colt (out of a full sister to champion Banshee Breeze), was only making his second start after winning his maiden debut at Calder. Both colts should not be dismissed off this one race.

In what was arguably the weakest renewal of the Holy Bull Stakes, Closing Argument (Successful Appeal) defeated Kansas City Boy (Boston Harbor) and High Fly (Atticus), and while the previously unbeaten High Fly had a wide trip nearly the entire 1 1/8 miles, none of these horses looks like Kentucky Derby material.

Next weekend is the San Vicente Stakes, a seven-furlong prep for the Santa Anita Derby featuring Roman Ruler (Fusaichi Pegasus) and Consolidator (Storm Cat).