March 13, 2000 2:00 AM
By RICHARD ROSENBLATT
AP Sports Writer
HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. (AP) Next stop for Hal's Hope is the Blue Grass Stakes in Keeneland, followed by the short van ride to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.
It's been a long time coming for 88-year-old Harold Rose, who owns and trains Hal's Hope.
"My expectations have been realized," Rose said after Hal's Hope held off favored High Yield in a stretch-long duel and won Saturday's $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park by a head.
When Rose shows up at the Kentucky Derby, it won't be the first time but he knows he'll have his first real shot at winning.
"This time," Rose said, "I'm going with a contender."
His last trip to the Derby was in 1984, when his Rexson's Hope finished 10th in a 20-horse field.
While Rose was excited about the biggest win of his nearly 40 years as a trainer of mostly claimer, jockey Roger Velez was ecstatic.
"I've never been to the Derby before," Velez said, "but it looks like we're going this time."
On Sunday, Rose's wife, Elsie, said the 3-year-old colt is off to Kentucky - the Blue Grass on April 15, the Derby on May 6.
"We're going to Kentucky, hopefully on to the Blue Grass," she said. "That's the plan."
Which means a rematch with High Yield, who like Hal's Hope came out of the Florida Derby in fine shape. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was satisfied with his colt's performance but he expected a different result.
"I was pleased with his effort," Lukas said, "although
I would have liked to have won the race.
"Heck, if I was going to lose, there is nobody I'd rather lose to than Mr. Rose."
Pat Day, who was aboard High Yield, also had visions of victory at the top of the stretch, "I thought all I had to do was push the button on my horse and we'd be by him.," Day said. "But the winner hung tough. I thought we could put the winner away but we couldn't."
Rose, who had a stroke and underwent quadruple bypass surgery last August, said he knew Hal's Hope would hold on.
"Once he's in front, he won't let another horse pass him," Rose said, "He has a lot of courage. I didn't think they could outrun him."
Hal's Hope covered the 1[ miles in 1:51 2-5 and earned $450,000, pushing his career total to $582,160.
Rose entered the racing business in the late 1960s after retiring from a career in printing and publishing in New Jersey. The couple moved to south Florida in the early 1970s and have been fan favorites ever since.
When Hal's Hope crossed the finish line, the crowd of 28,003 roared in approval, and Elsie Rose noticed the support.
"If there were 28,000 people at the track yesterday," she said, "it seemed like 27,000 of them were rooting for us."
Three weeks ago, High Yield defeated Hal's Hope in the Fountain of Youth by 3\ lengths.
On Saturday, Hal's Hope broke on top and stayed there, although Velez said High Yield pull ahead for an instant at the eighth pole. High Yield came mighty close to regaining the edge in the stretch, but couldn't get in front.
Hal's Hope, winning for the third time in his last four races, covered the 1[ miles in 1:51 2-5 and returned $15.80, $5.20 and $3.60. High Yield returned $3 and $2.40. Tahkodha Hills was third, 10 lengths behind High Yield, and paid $8.60.
Settlement was fourth, followed by Postponed, Scottish Halo, Deputy Warlock, Elite Mercedes, Bare Outline and Hades.
On Saturday's undercard, Trippi, the 4-5 favorite, came from
off the pace and won the $100,000 Swale Stakes by 1} lengths over
Ultimate Warrior and stayed on the road to the Derby.
In other races at Gulfstream, 2-1 favorite Beckon the King won the $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Handicap by 2\ lengths over Kettle Won, and Dancing Guy took the $75,000 Creme Fraiche Handicap by one length over Yankee Victor.
The Associated Press News Service
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