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Original Issue

Inside Horse Racing

Hal's Hope thrust his 88-year-old owner-trainer into the Derby

Harold Rose is 88 years young and has been training race horses
in South Florida for more than 30 years, with a few classy
animals sprinkled in among the hundreds of claimers he has sent
to the gate. But the man had never experienced anything like the
buzz and tumult that whirled around him late last Saturday
afternoon. Leaving the pandemonium that was the winner's circle
at Gulfstream Park, his eyes growing moist, Rose was greeted by
a gaggle of admirers who were waiting for him on the track
apron. Dozens more waved and saluted him from the second-floor
balcony overlooking the track.

Just 15 minutes earlier Rose's gritty 3-year-old, Hal's Hope, a
nearly black colt whom he bred and owns, repulsed three
determined bids from the heavily favored High Yield and won the
mile-and-an-eighth Florida Derby by a head. The race is the
state's most important prep race leading up to the May 6
Kentucky Derby, and so strenuous were the colt's efforts to win
that he almost collapsed as his ebullient jockey, Roger Velez,
rode him back to the winner's circle.

If Hal's Hope had proved himself something of a survivor, he was
no more so than his owner. Rose suffered a heart attack and
underwent quadruple bypass surgery last August, and he says his
belief in the colt--who was still a maiden--brought him back to
the track only three weeks later. "Knowing I had this horse was
probably one of the reasons that I got over the operation so
quickly," Rose said last Friday. "I couldn't wait to get to the

Hal's Hope won twice as a 2-year-old, but not until Jan. 15 did
he show why Rose was making such a fuss over him. Barreling to
the lead in the mile-and-a-16th Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream,
he outran a field of 10 others, winning by 5 1/4 lengths. In the
Fountain of Youth five weeks later, on a track that had a strong
rail bias, he chased High Yield all the way around but couldn't
close ground. Hal's Hope finished second, beaten by 3 1/4
lengths, and bled slightly during the race. In the Florida Derby
he raced on Lasix, and he ran hard and true for the full nine

Rose bred and owned the colt's dam, a high-class racer named
Mia's Hope, and in 1996 he sent her to the stallion Jolie's
Halo, a speedy colt during his days on the track. So the son of
Mia's Hope was really family, and on Saturday he gave Rose the
gift of a lifetime. "I have realized part of a dream--to win the
Florida Derby," Rose said. "The ultimate realization of the
dream will come in Kentucky in May. I hope."

Louisiana Derby

A day after the Kentucky Derby prospects of several colts had
been clarified in Florida, a long-striding bay named Mighty left
his flying hoofprints all over the 3-year-old picture when he
came charging from dead last to win the sharply contested
Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans. "This horse
showed he's got the stamina to go to the big dance," Shane
Sellers said after steering Mighty to victory. "There were
questions about this colt, but everything about this race was

The race was seen as the most competitive Kentucky Derby prep to
be run this year--at least six promising colts entered the
mile-and-a-16th test--and Mighty had some explaining to do since
finishing second in his last two starts at the Fair Grounds. The
colt can be a maddening sort. On Jan. 29, in the Lecomte Stakes,
he made the lead deep in the stretch but got cute as the wire
loomed and lost by a neck to Noble Ruler. "He didn't run to the
wire," recalls Frank Brothers, the colt's trainer. "Just
immaturity." Three weeks later, in the Risen Star Stakes, the
colt got rank early in the race when Sellers tried to restrain
him off a slow pace; when he settled down, it was too late.
Exchange Rate beat him by 1 1/4 lengths.

On Sunday, Mighty was forgiven all past sins when he relaxed in
last place off a livelier pace. He wove through the field around
the far turn, and took off when Sellers asked him at the top of
the lane. Mighty ran down the front-runners to beat More Than
Ready by two lengths, his ears pricking at the wire.

As a son of Lord at War, an Argentine horse who in 1985 won the
mile-and-a-quarter Santa Anita Handicap, Mighty is bred to run
classic distances at high speeds. Looking ahead to the Derby,
Brothers said, "He's a mile-and-a-quarter horse, no doubt about

The Best Out West?

The most talked-about Derby contender at Gulfstream Park last
week wasn't even in Florida. War Chant, the undefeated
challenger out of California, was the buzz of the backstretch
after his impressive victory in the San Rafael Stakes at Santa
Anita on March 4.

The rangy bay first stirred the interest of handicappers in his
3-year-old debut, a mile-and-a-16th allowance race at Santa
Anita on Jan. 16. On that day War Chant outclassed a weak field
by five lengths while putting up a Beyer Speed Figure of 104,
the fastest of any Derby candidate this year. In the San Rafael
he ran just off a hot pace for less than a half mile before
seizing the lead in the backstretch and holding off Archer City
Slew to win by a half length. War Chant's only hiccup came right
before the wire, when he broke stride after turning his head to
look at a sign on the inside rail.

It is that sort of immaturity that tempers some of the
enthusiasm about the colt. The Grade II San Rafael was only War
Chant's third career start, and none of those tests has come
against the sort of company that was racing in Florida and
Louisiana last weekend. No horse with fewer than five career
starts has won the Derby.

War Chant will go to the gate once more, in the Santa Anita
Derby on April 8, before he heads for Churchill Downs. His
trainer, Neil Drysdale, believes his charge's first Grade I test
can only help. "He needs to get some serious racing under his
belt," says Drysdale. --Mark Beech

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES With Velez aboard, Hal's Hope (right) held off a persistent challenge from the favored High Yield.


Derby Watch

The list of contenders for horse racing's greatest prize
includes Louisiana Derby winner Mighty (above, left). With the
Kentucky Derby set for May 6, here's how we see things.


War Chant 8-1 Neil Drysdale
Undefeated in two starts as a 3-year-old, but whom has he beaten?

Mighty 10-1 Frank Brothers
Experienced router was pulling away from a strong field in the
Louisiana Derby

Hal's Hope 10-1 Harold Rose
A gutsy victory in Florida Derby made believers out of many

Fusaichi Pegasus 12-1 Neil Drysdale
Drysdale's other prodigy may be the best of the bunch but needs
seasoning too

The Deputy 12-1 Jenine Sahadi
Irish colt is 2 for 2 in stakes this year, with wins over High
Yield and Captain Steve

Captain Steve 15-1 Bob Baffert
Ran third at Louisiana Derby, but Baffert says he liked what he

Anees 15-1 Alex Hassinger
Training impressively; trying to become first BC Juvenile-Derby

High Yield 20-1 D. Wayne Lukas
Impressive in defeat, this solidly consistent performer is
getting better

Surfside 30-1 D. Wayne Lukas
Four Grade I victories; trying to become fourth filly to win the

Red Bullet 50-1 Joe Orseno
A favorite of many handicappers; no starts as 2-year-old but 2
for 2 in 2000