01/26/2005 1:00AM

Turf Paradise track report


Lead for Speed's nose win over Scottsbluff in last Sunday's $40,000 Rattlesnake at Turf Paradise has his connections eyeing bigger game.

"We know now he can go a distance and be competitive," said trainer Dan McFarlane.

Lead for Speed ran the mile in 1:37.25, earning a 77 Beyer Speed Figure.

McFarlane said Lead for Speed will be pointed to the $100,000 Turf Paradise Derby on Feb. 12. Scottsbluff is also expected to run.

Ridden by Wilson Dieguez in the Rattlesnake, Lead for Speed refused to wilt under constant pressure from Scottsbluff. It was 11 lengths back to third-place finisher Night Gig in the field of 11 3-year-olds.

"We were going a route of ground for the first time, so I wanted him to relax," said Dieguez, who last Saturday won the filly counterpart to the Rattlesnake, the $40,000 Sun Devil Stakes, with Virden. "But he pulled me to the lead. Then for a half-mile we battled head-to-head with Scottsbluff. Those noses count."

Owned by Phoenix car dealer Hal Earnhardt III, Lead for Speed, by Indian Charlie, has now won 4 of 8 and never finished out of the money.

* Turf Paradise announced a 5 percent retroactive purse increase and a further 5 percent increase on future purses effective Friday. The purse hike is the result of increased wagering from the statewide OTB system and out-of-state markets.

Track officials and horsemen expressed delight at the news. Field size is seen as one of the primary contributing factors to the increase in handle.

"We are at an all-time high, averaging almost 9.5 horses per race," said racing secretary Shawn Swartz.