01/24/2004 12:00AM

Turf: Proud Man turns the tables

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EQUI-PHOTOS
Proud Man runs ahead of Hear No Evil to win the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Proud Man, who has suffered some tough losses in major races during his career, finally came out on the right side of a close decision - he rallied to catch the 25-1 shot Hear No Evil in deep stretch to register a half-length victory in the $500,000 .

Proud Man was beaten a nose by Freefourinternet in the Grade 2 Kelso last fall at Belmont, a neck by Pyru in the Grade 3 Ft. Marcy the previous season, and a half-length by Kalu in the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby at 3. But with Rene Douglas back aboard for the first time since his 3-year-old season, Proud Man rallied wide into the stretch and had the best closing kick to surge past the game Hear No Evil in the final strides of the 1 1/8-mile Sunshine Turf.

Special Matter rallied to finish third. Man From Wicklow, the tepid 5-2 favorite, trailed throughout and was never a factor. Silver Tree was scratched earlier in the day.

Proud Man is a 6-year-old son of Manlove. He is owned by the partnership of Roger Weiss, Robert Kaufman, and Stephen Weiss and trained by Christophe Clement. He covered the distance in 1:45.69 seconds over a firm course and returned $12.

"He's been a bit unlucky over the years but finally got lucky today," said Clement. "What he needs more than anything is a strong pace. When he gets a strong pace, he is a very good horse.

"The barn has been quiet during the first 30 days of the meet," the trainer said. "I've been resting a lot of my horses to set them up for the rest of the year. But being a Florida-bred I kept this one going for this race."

Clement said the Mervin Muniz Handicap (formerly the Explosive Bid) at Fair Grounds could be next on Proud Man's agenda.