01/26/2008 12:00AM

War Monger powers home in stretch


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Bill Mott is right. War Monger is a monster.

Racing in tight quarters for at least six furlongs, War Monger was able to get clear turning for home under Kent Desormeaux and unleashed a powerful stretch kick to win Saturday's $500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf at Gulfstream Park by a length over Soldier's Dancer, who also had a troubled trip. It was a length back to pacesetting Lucky J.H. in third.

Mott had high hopes for War Monger entering his 4-year-old season, saying earlier in the week that "he's a monster." However, Mott thought War Monger might be better at a mile as opposed to 1 1/8 miles.

Breaking from the rail, War Monger was stuck in traffic down on the inside and was steadied repeatedly by Desormeaux early on. He was able to find a little running room to get into contention around the far turn, then was able to get into the clear turning for home. War Monger roared past Lucky J.H. in midstretch as did Soldier's Dancer, who got fanned eight wide for the stretch run.

War Monger, a Florida-bred son of War Chant owned by Peter Vegso, covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.32 over firm turf and returned $5.80 as the favorite.

"He won the race at the half-mile pole," Desormeaux said. "It got really, really tight - he just held his ground, more or less. He didn't let other horses push him out of the way. After that, it was just a matter of picking a line and giving him somewhere to go."

Said Mott: "I think if he switches off, he's got a nice punch. Is he better at a flat mile? I can't tell you; he might be. He ran very well today."

Oaks: American County gate to wire

American County, a Florida-bred daughter of Gibson County, led every step of the way under Edgar Prado to take the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Oaks by 1 1/4 lengths over 33-1 Robbie's Gal. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to Validain in third.

Blitzing, the 6-5 favorite, finished ninth of 10.

American County ($7.60), owned by Mike Tarp and trained by Dale Romans, set fractions of 21.81 seconds and 44.62 and covered six furlongs in 1:10.38.

"The plan was to play it by ear and see what happens, but when I got to the paddock, Dale told me don't worry about it, that filly can handle a little pressure; let her roll out of there and let them catch you if they can," Prado said. "And nobody caught me."