01/01/2005 12:00AM

Turfway: Deer Lake finds right spot

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Facing crack sprinters throughout much of 2004, Deer Lake went winless in six starts. Against a much softer group of runners Saturday in the Holiday Cheer Stakes at Turfway, Deer Lake reversed that trend. He surged to a clear lead in the midstretch and held on for a half-length win over Private Horde.

Although Deer Lake never won last year, he ran well in defeat on several occasions, such as when he was third to Cajun Beat in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap and second to multiple stakes winner Coach Jimi Lee in an allowance at Keeneland in the fall.

He ran to that form in the Holiday Cheer, pressing Sgt. Bert into fractions of 21.94 and 44.63 seconds in the six-furlong race before putting him away and outlasting Private Horde, who made a run in the final eighth of a mile. Saintly Look ran third, 4 1/2 lengths behind the runner-up.

Deer Lake, a $62,500 claim in November 2003 by owners Steve Fugitte and Stephen Howard, ran six furlongs over a fast track in 1:09.58, paying $12.80. He is trained by Richard Kohnhorst and was ridden by Dean Sarvis.