05/11/2005 11:00PM

Track gives Storm Surge an edge

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Didn't we do this six months ago?

The , part of the fall stakes program last October when Lone Star Park hosted the Breeders' Cup, will return to its traditional slot on Saturday.

The Grade 3, $300,000 race has drawn 12 horses from as far away as New York, California, and Kentucky, including Storm Surge, who picked up the first stakes win of his career on the Breeders' Cup undercard last year, when he won the $100,000 Lone Star Juvenile.

Storm Surge will vie for favoritism with Awesome Twist, winner of his last two starts by a combined 13 lengths, and Magna Graduate, third in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby. Challengers include Thor's Echo and Southern Africa, who ran one-two in the $500,000 WinStar Derby, and Real Dandy, fourth in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby.

Storm Surge flew in Wednesday, and got reacquainted with the Lone Star surface Thursday.

"He had a real good morning," said Dallas Stewart, who trains Storm Surge. "He did excellent. He takes to the track real well."

Storm Surge, who was third in the Grade 2 Lexington at Keeneland, passed on the Kentucky Derby because Stewart felt the colt, a son of Storm Cat, was not yet ready for 1 1/4-mile distance of the race. The trainer then zeroed in on the Lone Star Derby.

"He's won over this racetrack, it's $300,000, and it's a graded race," said Stewart.

In his last start, Storm Surge finished seven lengths behind Coin Silver in the Lexington under regular rider Robby Albarado.

"The track was very muddy that day, and Robby thought he probably didn't run his best race," said Stewart.

Stewart said Storm Surge will be close to the pace on Saturday. So should Magna Graduate, according to his trainer, Pat Byrne.

"He's a superior gate horse, and he puts himself in position early, which is key in a large field," said Byrne. Jockey Gary Stevens, Byrne said, "can put him wherever he needs to be."

Awesome Twist, trained by John Kimmel, will make his two-turn and stakes debut Saturday. He rallied to win his last two starts, both under regular rider Javier Castellano, who has been named to ride Saturday.