02/15/2006 12:00AM

Turf Paradise track report


As the saying goes, "pace makes the race," and that was certainly the case in last Saturday's $75,000 Turf Paradise Derby. No one could have been happier than the connections of the victorious Keagan.

"It was a wicked pace and we benefited from it," said trainer and part-owner Eric Kruljac, who credited jockey Scott Stevens with riding a perfect race.

Keagan covered the 1 1/16 miles over a fast track in 1:43.90. The Bob Baffert-trained Sky Diving, ridden by Tony Farina, broke from post 7 and continued to race on the outside of Top Authority, Rock Creek Pass, and Wait in Line through a half-mile in 45.53 seconds and six furlongs in 1:10.43.

Keagan headed Sky Diving with a sixteenth of mile to go and edged away to a half-length victory.

"He may be small in size, but he's all heart," Stevens said of Keagan.

Keagan's victory snapped a six-year win streak in the stakes by California-based horses. The last locally based horse to win the Turf Paradise Derby was Eagleton in 1999.

Kruljac said that the $600,000 WinStar Derby, on April 1 at Sunland Park, is a possibility for Keagan. A $26,000 yearling purchase, Keagan is not nominated to the Triple Crown.