10/07/2010 3:43PM

Yankee Fourtune's late kick makes him one to beat

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Four-Footed Fotos
Mister Marti Gras has victory in the Oliver at Indiana Downs to his credit.

STICKNEY, Ill. – Mister Marti Gras won a rich Indiana Downs turf stakes and was second in the American Derby. Call Shot finished a solid third in the $100,000 Dania Beach last winter at Gulfstream, his lone turf start. Dean’s Kitten was third in the American Derby and fifth in the Secretariat, while Cherokee Lord set the pace and held fourth in the Secretariat. Asphalt’s high-water mark came April 30, when he was second in the American Turf. A pretty clear picture of these entrants in the Hawthorne Derby comes forth: Capable, not electric.

The horse whose ceiling hasn’t yet been set is Yankee Fourtune, and if his ascendance continues – perhaps if he merely runs back to his most recent start – he could emerge as the winner of the Grade 3, $150,000 Hawthorne Derby here Saturday.

Yankee Fourtune probably will have six rivals in the 1 1/8-mile grass race, since Turf Melody almost certainly will start in the Jamaica at Belmont, trainer Graham Motion said. The other entrant here is Backtrack, who would need a career-best performance to factor in his grass debut.

Yankee Fourtune, a gray gelding by Yankee Gentleman and out of the Mi Cielo mare Madam Ann, fetched just $37,000 at auction, and showed little in his lone start at 2 last year.

“He just needed some time off, so we sent him home,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Yankee Fourtune for owners Harvey Clark and Andrew Albstein. “He came back and trained really well, and since Yankee Gentleman has done pretty well on synthetics, we thought we’d try him on turf.”

Good idea. At Belmont in July, Yankee Fourtune won his 3-year-old debut by almost five lengths, beating $50,000 maiden-claimers. A month later at Saratoga, he won by more than three lengths in a $50,000 starter allowance, and on Sept. 6 at Saratoga, Yankee Fourtune annihilated eight entry-level allowance foes, setting a moderate pace before drawing off to win by more than seven lengths. In all three victories, Yankee Fortune has raced on or just off the early lead and finished powerfully. The final furlong in his maiden win went in about 11.40 seconds, the final three-eighths next time in about 28.20 seconds, and his final quarter-mile last out in a dazzling 22.80 seconds. All three races were contested over very firm going, but that’s exactly the course condition Yankee Fourtune should find again Saturday. Victor Santiago doesn’t ride much for McLaughlin, but he rode Starship Angel for him here in Sixty Sails last spring, and retains the mount on Yankee Fourtune. Santiago should fall into a good trip, breaking outside Cherokee Lord, the only other pace horse.