05/24/2002 11:00PM

A vote of confidence for No More Chads

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Chuck Simon always knew that No More Chads had tremendous turf potential, but minor injuries as a yearling and 2-year-old restricted the colt from running his best. So when Simon entered the horse in a maiden $20,000 claiming race at Fair Grounds this February in his second career start, he was taking a shot that the horse wouldn't be claimed.

"I knew he had a lot of ability, but I didn't know if we could keep him sound," Simon said. "We were taking a big shot in the race, but sometimes horses like that never come around."

No More Chads, who is owned by Sarah and Ken Ramsey, did come around in the race, accelerating down the lane to win going away. Fortunately for his connections, No More Chads was not claimed, because he has since lived up to his trainer's early expectations.

No More Chads leads a field of 10 in the Grade 3, $100,000 Jersey Derby on Memorial Day at Monmouth Park. The Jersey Derby, for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, will go off as the ninth race.

After winning his maiden race, No More Chads won an allowance on the turf at the Fair Grounds, stalking the pace and then strongly holding on for a neck victory. He ran second in the $100,000 Forerunner Stakes at Keeneland in his next start, and then ran fourth, beaten only three lengths, in the Grade 3 Crown Royal at Churchill Downs on May 3. Simon said that No More Chads was rank throughout the race, never settling and fighting jockey Victor Espinoza to go to the lead.

"I should've taken the blinkers off him," said Simon, who is stabled at Monmouth for the first time this summer.

"He still ran incredibly. He'll run without blinkers Monday, and he should be able to relax behind the leaders. I think my horse is as good as anybody's in the race."

The competition will be stiff for No More Chads, led by the Michael Dickinson-trained Mr. O'Brien. Mr. O'Brien will enter the Jersey Derby off only eight days' rest since his last start, a victory in the $100,000 Woodlawn Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day. Mr. O'Brien has three wins in four lifetime starts, all of which have come on the turf. His only poor performance was a sixth-place finish in the $100,000 Transylvania at Keeneland April 5, but he obviously rebounded from that in the Woodlawn.

"He was just too rank and ran himself into the ground in the Transylvania," Dickinson said. "He is coming into the Jersey Derby in great shape."

Alphabetical, Touring England, Justoneofdaboyz, Kris's Prayer, Emergency Status, Rapadash, Run to Victory, and Hudson Street complete the field.

* Monday's third race, the $50,000 Monmouth Beach Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile, highlights the Jersey Derby undercard. Unrestrained, trained by Mark Hennig, will be one of the top choices because of her drop down from graded-stakes competition. She ran second to eventual Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Unbridled Elaine in the Grade 2 Monmouth Oaks last year.