03/29/2007 12:00AM

This time, A. P. Arrow is the big horse


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After tackling the likes of Invasor, Premium Tap, Corinthian, and Hesandoldsalt in his last three starts, A. P. Arrow will get some significant class relief when he drops into Grade 3 company for Saturday's $150,000 Skip Away Handicap. The nine-furlong Skip Away highlights the undercard on Saturday's Florida Derby program at Gulfstream Park.

A. P. Arrow finished third, beaten less than a length, following an awkward start and wide trip in the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 3. One month earlier, the son of A. P. Indy finished third, two lengths behind Horse of the Year Invasor, in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. He was also a wide-running third closing out his 2006 campaign in the Grade 1 Clark.

A. P. Arrow, whose most recent victory came under second-level allowance conditions last summer at Saratoga, will carry high weight of 117 pounds in the Skip Away. Jockey Edgar Prado replaces John Velazquez, who, like trainer Todd Pletcher, will be in Dubai on Saturday.

The improving Political Force, winner of both a first- and second-level allowance race at a mile earlier in the meet, figures to receive ample support considering the success his trainer, Allen Jerkens, has had here this winter. The only previous stakes experience for Political Force, a 4-year-old son of Unbridled's Song, was a second-place finish at 2 in the Grade 2 Nashua Stakes. He receives a four-pound weight concession from the favorite and also breaks from the rail, which should put him in perfect striking position off the expected early pace of Gottcha Gold.

"He's always given the impression of being a nice horse, but he never had any luck, much of which was caused because he was bad in the gate," said Jerkens, who has won five stakes races during the meet. "He seems to have settled down, but this is a big step up for him and there's always something to worry about before any stakes race, even when you've got a champ."

Javier Castellano will take Cornelio Velasquez's regular seat aboard Political Force. Velasquez, the meet's leading jockey, opted to ride Dry Martini instead.

Dry Martini is one of three Calder-based runners who figure to perform well in the Skip Away, along with Rehoboth and Touched by Madness.

Dry Martini rolled to an 8 3/4-length allowance victory on March 2 while posting his fifth consecutive triple-digit Beyer Figure. The stretch-running gelding finished third behind Hesanoldsalt in his only graded stakes try, in Calder's Fred Hooper on Dec. 16.

Rehoboth returns to more suitable company after finishing a well-beaten fifth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, and seeks to regain the form that saw him win three stakes and bank nearly $300,000 in 2006.

Touched by Madness returned quick dividends off the claim for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who took the gelding for $100,000 here on Jan. 21. A son of Sword Dance, Touched by Madness came back four weeks later to win a $250,000-$200,000 optional claiming race while posting a career-high 97 Beyer over a fast track.

Welcome Again returns from Fair Grounds, where he was a tiring sixth behind Pletcher's odds-on Master Command in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap on Feb. 10.