08/13/2005 12:00AM

Willow o Wisp best in La Jolla

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DEL MAR, Calif. - Willow o Wisp tuned up for the $400,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 5with a hard-fought win in Saturday's $150,000 at Del Mar.

The victory marked his second straight stakes victory, seven weeks after the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Willow o Wisp ($4.80) stalked pacesetter Juliesugardaddy to the top of the stretch and outfinished that rival to win by a head. Willow O Wisp ran 1 1-16 miles on turf in 1:41.45.

"We wanted to turn it into a sprint from the three-eighths pole," Gomez said. "I thought it worked into my hands."

Juliesugardaddy finished two lengths in front of top contender El Roblar in the field of seven 3-year-olds. El Roblar, who won a division of the Oceanside Stakes on July 20, was never closer than third.

Willow o Wisp has won 4 of 11 starts and $269,240. The La Jolla was his first win at the Grade 2 level.