10/04/2006 11:00PM

Two minutes will decide Bright One's path

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It took Bright One about 10 weeks over the summer to go from an unknown first-time starter to one of the more exciting prospects of the so-called “second season,” which encompasses the major 3-year-old stakes run after the Triple Crown.

The time needed to determine whether Bright One is a potential candidate for American racing’s biggest prize, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, will be considerably shorter – the less than two minutes it will take him to complete the 1 1/16 miles of Saturday’s Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park.

Bright One figures to be a solid favorite in the field of 12, though his trainer, Dale Romans, concedes the race came up tougher than he expected.

“If he runs the way we think he can, we’d have to consider the Breeders’ Cup,” Romans said.

A half-length loss in his debut has been the only black mark on Bright One’s four-race career. His three subsequent wins have been by wide margins, the latest a 5 3/4-length tour de force in the nine-furlong West Virginia Derby on Aug. 6. Bright One next missed a scheduled start in the Travers due to a cough.

“He still has things to learn,” said Romans. “He looks around and he’s playful in his races, but he’s improved a lot in each race.”

Smokeyjonessutton and Lewis Michael, second and third, respectively, in the St. Louis Derby six weeks ago, may pose the biggest challenge to Bright One. Smokeyjonessutton, an unheralded 30-1 shot in the St. Louis Derby, gave Lawyer Ron all he could handle only to fall short by three-quarters of a length.

Lewis Michael, who finished two lengths further back, held on well after briefly leading around the far turn. Earlier this year, Lewis Michael finished a game second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan, beaten a neck by Sunriver.

Dr. Pleasure, who was left in Bernardini’s wake in both the Jim Dandy and the Travers, should appreciate the step down in class. Though still eligible for a first-level allowance, Dr. Pleasure showed considerable progress in both Saratoga starts, and his Beyer Figures are not far behind those of the top contenders.

Others of note in the Indiana Derby are Star Dabbler, who will be making his two-turn debut after a second-place finish to Henny Hughes in the King’s Bishop, and the California invader Plug Me In, who recently captured his first stakes at Fairplex Park.

Romans returned this week from a seven-day suspension stemming from a positive test for excessive Butazolidin in M B Sea, who finished second in the Carpenter Memorial at Delaware Park on July 15. M B Sea has not raced since the Carpenter, but will attempt to snap an eight-race losing streak in the $100,000 Michael G. Schaefer Mile.

The Schaefer, which is the race prior to the Indiana Derby, is a winnable race for M B Sea, whose last victory was nearly 14 months ago in a listed stakes at Mountaineer Park. Most of M B Sea’s losses in the interim have come in graded stakes.

Iosilver, the 2005 Schaefer winner, should provide the fast pace that the deep-closing M B Sea needs. Gigawatt, Stockholder, and Sampson’s Son also figure prominently in the Schaefer.

The other stakes on Saturday’s card is the $40,000 Gus Grissom for older Indiana-breds at 1 1/16 miles. Pass Rush, the most accomplished statebred of the past decade with career earnings of nearly $600,000, figures to be a strong favorite to defend his title in the Grissom. Liepers Fork, the runner-up to Pass Rush in the 2005 Grissom, is the most logical upsetter.