03/23/2005 1:00AM

Uncle Denny targets WinStar Derby


Uncle Denny, winner of the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows in his last start, will go next in the $500,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park on April 2, according to trainer Rafael Becerra. Uncle Denny races for Stan Fulton, who owns Sunland.

A California-bred son of In Excess, Uncle Denny won the 1 1/16-mile El Camino Real Derby by more than two lengths for his fourth win in five starts. His lone loss was a fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Sham Stakes on Feb. 5 at Santa Anita.

"It was a real nice win, because I knew how good this horse is," Becerra said.

Fulton faces a $6,000 late nomination fee to make Uncle Denny eligible for the Triple Crown. Becerra said a final decision has not yet been made on whether to supplement the horse.

Becerra and Fulton won the Grade 2 Santa Catalina Stakes in 2004 with St Averil, but St Averil had to be scratched from the Kentucky Derby on the eve of the race because of a foot ailment.

* On Friday, Leading Spirit set the top qualifying time for the Grade 1, $269,725 West Texas Futurity here April 3. One of two finalists trained by Blane Wood, Leading Spirit scored a 2 1/4-length win under a confident hand ride from J.J. Gonzales. The winning time for the 300 yards was 15.121 seconds.

* Veteran rider Joe Martinez posted his 2,000th career victory here Sunday. Martinez, who has ridden throughout the United States since 1978 and mostly on the New Mexico circuit in recent years, brought home Roll on Retsina in Sunday's sixth race. Martinez's 2,001 victories through Tuesday have come from 12,687 mounts for mount earnings of $10,870,837. He has 132 stakes wins.