05/03/2007 11:00PM

Wanderin Boy's speed secures Alysheba win

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Wanderin Boy's class was evident last year in runner-up finishes behind Invasor in the Pimlico Special and Bernardini in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But it was his intimidating speed that won him Friday's Grade 3, $112,300 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.

With the previously unbeaten Half Ours rated early by John Velazquez, Wanderin Boy and Corey Nakatani found themselves loose on the lead, setting moderate fractions of 48.09 seconds and 1:12.86 in the 1 1/16-mile race in the slop.

Considering Wanderin Boy won the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap last summer when setting an opening half-mile in 46.45 seconds, a soft pace was all he needed to roll to a clear victory. He turned aside a bid from favored Half Ours on the final turn, and drew away to a 4 1/4-length victory.

Half Ours and Student Council, who chased Wanderin Boy in second and third early, remained in those positions most of the way around the track. Half Ours finished a length and in front of Student Council for second, with Perfect Drift another eight lengths behind Student Council in fourth.

Essex Handicap winner Jonesboro, who had been expected to show speed, was scratched.

The Alysheba was the first race of the year for Wanderin Boy, a 6-year-old Seeking the Gold horse who had not raced since a sixth-place finish behind Premium Tap in the Clark Handicap on Nov. 24.

"He hadn't raced in a long, long time, but it's easy to train this kind," winning trainer Nick Zito said.

Some riders - such as Velazquez on Half Ours and Garrett Gomez on Perfect Drift - said their horses struggled over the sloppy track. But that was not the case with the winner.

"He's a very athletic horse," said Nakatani. "He did it the right way."

Owned and bred by Arthur Hancock III, Wanderin Boy won for the eighth time in 16 starts. He ran the 1o1/16 miles in 1:43.45, paying $7.80.

Crown Royal: Duveen by a half-length

It's horses like Duveen that may keep Mark Guidry riding a little longer than he planned.

Guidry, who began Friday's card by riding his 5,000th career winner, rode Duveen to a half-length victory over Whatsthescript in the Grade 3, $188,700 Crown Royal American Turf for 3-year-olds. It was another half-length back to pacesetting Jazz Quest in third.

It was the third consecutive victory for Duveen - all on turf - and convinced trainer Dale Romans to point for big-money races such as the Virginia Derby and Secretariat later in the summer. The Secretariat is a Grade 1 race at Arlington Park where Guidry plans to ride this summer before retiring in early August.

"The Secretariat is a week after I plan on retiring, so I'm hoping [Romans] does that to back it up a week." Guidry said of running Duveen in that race. "Then I might have to back it up a couple of months for the Breeders' Cup."

In the Crown Royal, Duveen rated off Jazz Quest through pedestrian fractions of 24.70 seconds, 50.09, and 1:14.88 for six furlongs. Turning for home, Duveen came alongside Jazz Quest while Marcavelly, the 5-2 favorite, was right to Duveen's outside. But Duveen kicked clear of the field inside the eighth pole and held off Whatsthescript, who steadied at the half-mile pole and who was carried out a little by Marcavelly in deep stretch.

Duveen, a son of Horse Chestnut owned by Richard Brodie's Andrew Farm, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.03 over yielding turf and returned $11.20 to win.

"My horse was real fresh today for some reason," Guidry said. "He got real pumped up in the post parade. I knew he was going to be a handful when the gates opened. I tried to restrain him as much as I could without really fighting him. When I turned for home, he exploded real nicely."

Said Romans: "I thought this was a real good group of horses and I think this showed we could run with any 3-year-old on the turf."

- David Grening

Edgewood: Swingit goes last to first

In a race where the last three horses midway through were the first three across the wire, Swingit rallied from last to first to score a mild upset in the $171,150 Edgewood Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Swingit ($17.80) got up in the final strides to beat 26-1 shot Luna Dorada by a head, with Good Mood another 2o1/2 lengths back in third. Moonee Ponds, favored at 8-5 to score her fourth straight win, was fourth.

Steady rain on Friday left the turf course yielding, and resulted in an Edgewood whose race shape seemed to hinder the front-runners. Queen of the Ridge appeared rank early and led early through fractions of 23.82 seconds and 48.70 seconds for the first half-mile, then Moonee Ponds took over through six furlongs in 1:11.26. But as the field came down the stretch, those at the back of the pack early rolled past the leaders.

Swingit and Luna Dorada moved as a team down the center of the course. Luna Dorada got the lead soon after passing Moonee Ponds, but Swingit gradually edged by her to prevail. Swingit completed 1 1/16 miles on the yielding course in 1:43.99.

Brian Hernandez Jr. rode Swingit for trainer Hal Wiggins and owner Robert Hovelson. Hernandez said the addition of blinkers made the difference.

"After the last time she ran at Keeneland," Hernandez said, referring to a sixth-place finish in the Appalachian Stakes April 22, "we thought that maybe she needed blinkers. She trained with them and improved by tons."

Jockey Jamie Theriot said Moonee Ponds was too eager early. "She wouldn't settle like her previous races," he said.

Swingit, 3, a filly by Victory Gallop, has now won 3 times in 7 starts. Her biggest previous win came last fall in the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland, in a 15-1 surprise.

- Jay Privman

Turf Sprint: Gaff turns it on

The in-and-out career of a 5-year-old horse named Gaff took a pronounced upswing when he gave a flawless performance in winning the $169,050 Aegon Turf Sprint.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Gaff had a perfect stalking trip in the five-furlong turf race before grinding down the front-runners, Unbridled Sidney and Chief What It Is. At the wire, Gaff had 1 1/4 lengths on Ellwood and Jake, who pulled up with a serious front-leg injury shortly after the wire.

Steve Asmussen trains Gaff for the Heiligbrodt Racing Stable. "The race set up very well for us," said Asmussen. "It was the best-case scenario for us."

Congo King made a steady run up the hedge to finish third, three-quarters of a length behind Ellwood and Jake. Roi Charmant was another 1o1/4 lengths back in a field of eight older horses, while Unbridled Sidney, the 2-1 favorite, faded to sixth. There were four early scratches.

Gaff, by Maria's Mon, returned $9.60 after finishing in 56.84 seconds over a yielding turf. The horse has run several brilliant races in his 19-race career but also has faltered on key occasions. Asmussen said he intends to keep Gaff specializing in turf sprints.

"This is what he should be doing," he said.

Gaff has won six times and now has a career bankroll of $494,818.

Ellwood and Jake, ridden by Garrett Gomez and trained by Mike Mitchell. had to be vanned off with a fractured sesamoid that was stabilized soon after the race. Chief steward John Veitch said veterinarians attending Ellwood and Jake believed the 4-year-old colt would not have to be euthanized, "barring a turn for the worse."

- Marty McGee