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TALKIN MAN TROTS TO VICTORY AT WOOD MEMORIAL

Talkin Man romped to victory in the Wood Memorial on Saturday, and now talk turns to Kentucky.

With the upset victory earlier in the day by Wild Syn in the Blue Grass, Talkin Man might well go to Churchill Downs as the favorite for the Kentucky Derby on May 6."I'm very skeptical about being the Kentucky Derby favorite, but he does look strong," trainer Roger Attfield said.

If there was a Derby for understatement, Attfield would be the favorite in that. Canada's 2-year-old champion a year ago, Talkin Man took the lead for good in the $500,000 Wood at Aqueduct with a mile left, loped along easily on the lead going into the final turn, then stretched the margin of victory out to 73/4 lengths, untouched by the whip of jockey Shane Sellers.

"Just awesome - he dominated from the start. It does look pretty good for me in the Derby," Attfield admitted. "I was hoping somebody maybe would take the lead a bit, but he was so dominant. He won it in a gallop as far as I could see."

The victory was the second straight in a stakes for Talkin Man, who also won the Gotham convincingly last March 25 at Aqueduct, and so far he has made it look easy.

The victory was worth $300,000 for Talkin Man, who now has career earnings of $677,967 with five victories in eight lifetime starts.

Knockadoon rallied for second, 61/2 lengths ahead of Is Sveikatas. Completing the order of finish were Candy Cone, Moonlight Dancer, Key Guy, El Alpino and Kresa. Each of the starters carried 123 pounds.

Talkin Man, who went off the 2-5 favorite, returned $2.90, $2.50 and $2.10, Knockadoon paid $4.30 and $2.80, and Is Sveikatas returned $3.80. The time for 11/8 miles was 1:49 1-5, two seconds off the track record set by Private Terms in 1988.

Talkin Man led by just 11/2 lengths over Knockadoon going into the final turn, but when the field straightened for home, he was almost seven lengths ahead. Moonlight Dancer, meanwhile, faded from third to fifth.

"Here, I was counting my money," Sellers said as he watched the replay on television.

After winning the Canadian juvenile championship, Talkin Man finished a disappointing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs. He apparently had contracted a mysterious virus, and Attfield gave him the winter off. The Gotham was his first race back.

"It was a great opportunity to ride a great horse," said Sellers, who took over on Talkin Man for Mike Smith. Smith was committed to ride Concern in the Oaklawn Handicap on Saturday.

"It was a great opportunity to ride this horse," Sellers said. "Horses make riders. I was just a passenger."

In a companion feature, Blissful State took the lead turning for home and won the $107,800 Bay Shore going away. The time for seven furlongs was 1:23 4-5. Blissful State, 118, ridden by Mike Luzzi, finished three lengths ahead of Northern Ensign, with Pat n Jac third, another half-length back.

The winner, trained by John Kimmel, returned $4.30 to win.

At Lexington, Ky., the owner and trainer of unheralded Wild Syn had thought they would be lucky to get on the board in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Not only did the 30-1 shot get on the board, he put his number on the top of it, upsetting such top Kentucky Derby candidates as Suave Prospect, Thunder Gulch and Tejano Run in a front-running performance Saturday at Keeneland.

"Everything went the way we like it," said owner-breeder Jurgen Arneman, a native of Berlin who lives on his farm at Franklin, Ky. "The horse ran a great race. The jockey did a great job."

Randy Romero put Wild Syn on top at the break and kept him there, setting fractions that benefitted his colt every step of the way.

Wild Syn got such an easy lead that Romero started feeling like a winner before the race was half over.

"When I hit the quarter pole, I said `Hell, I can win it,"' Romero said.

Arneman said Wild Syn probably will start in the 11/4-mile Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, but said he and his trainer son, Thomas, would have to see how the horse came out of the Blue Grass.

The winner, carving out fractions of 49 seconds for the half-mile, 1:13 1-5 for three-quarters, 1:37 2-5 for the mile and 1:49 1-5 for 11/8 miles, won by 21/2 lengths over Suave Prospect, who was a head in front of Tejano Run.

Favored Thunder Gulch, winner of the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby in close decisions over Suave Prospect, finished fourth, followed by Jambalaya Jazz and Gadzook. The six 3-year-olds finished in the exact order of their post positions.

At Hot Springs, Ark., Cigar beat Silver Goblin by 21/2 lengths on Saturday in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap, winning a showdown involving the top four handicap horses in the country.

Concern was third, four lengths behind Silver Goblin, with Best Pal in fourth in the seven-horse field.