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Favored 'Fortune' flourishes at Hawthorne

It didn't take young jockey Victor Santiago long to discover that Yankee Fortune was ''special.''

Santiago and Yankee Fortune, the even-money betting favorite, teamed for a fourth consecutive victory, winning the 46th running of the Grade III $150,000 Hawthorne Derby for 3-year-olds by 2- 206-140- lengths in front-running fashion on Saturday.

''The first time I rode him, I told [trainer] Kiaran [McLaughlin] that he was a really, really nice horse,'' Santiago said. ''The second time I rode him, I told [McLaughlin] I had never been on a horse as nice as this one. I knew from the beginning that he was something special. He trusts me and I trust him.''

Yankee Fortune gave Santiago his first graded-stakes victory and McLaughlin, whose Redding Colliery won the Grade II Hawthorne Gold Cup, stakes scores on consecutive Saturdays at the Stickney spa.

''I came across to get the lead pretty quickly,'' the New York-based rider said. ''I really didn't want to do that on purpose, but I did want to get ahead of the other speed, and I knew there were two speed horses inside. As soon as we grabbed the lead, he started started running easy.

''I knew that if I got him to the lead and got him to relax, he was going to be tough. He finished pretty strong. I tapped him a couple of times late, but he didn't need it.''

After cutting fractions of 23.42, 47.50 and 1:11.03, Yankee Fortune (owned by Harvey Clark and Andrew Albstein) covered 1- 250-134- /' miles on a firm turf course in 1:46.28. Mister Mardi Gras was second and Asphalt third.

''We thought the speed would come back,'' said Martin Martinez, Mister Mardi Gras' assistant trainer, ''but [Yankee Fortune] was able to hold on.''