05/10/2007 12:00AM

All signals go for Curlin


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Fully satisfied that Curlin came out of his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in good order, trainer Steve Asmussen on Thursday confirmed the colt as a definite starter for the 132nd Preakness next Saturday.

"The only hesitation was to see how he was when he went back to the track," said Asmussen. And after a second day of routine training at Churchill Downs, where Curlin went through a gallop of about a mile early Thursday, Asmussen said he is "very pleased with how he's doing physically."

Curlin, who was sent away the 5-1 second choice behind the winner, Street Sense, came into the Derby unbeaten and virtually unchallenged in three starts. After encountering traffic about an eighth of a mile into the race, the colt was 14th with a half-mile to go before rallying to finish eight lengths behind Street Sense. His confirmation for the Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore means the second leg of the Triple Crown will get the first three Derby finishers, with Street Sense and Hard Spun also among those definite for the 1 3/16-mile race.

Asmussen, speaking on a national conference call, said he was "very curious" how Curlin would act following the Derby. "I wanted to make sure it was still him," he said. And with four different ownership entities in Curlin, "I didn't want to speak out of turn," he added. "I wanted to touch base with all of them, have the conversation."

Asmussen praised Street Sense repeatedly during a lengthy interview but said circumstances might be different in the Preakness.

"The Derby experience is like no other," he said. "Not only do you have to be good enough, you also have to be fortunate." He called Street Sense "the right horse at the right time on the right day."

Asmussen said he was proud of the way Curlin persevered in the Derby. "When you look back, you beat 17 of the best 3-year-olds in the country at one time," he said. "You just didn't beat the other two." He said he is hoping for the Preakness to unfold differently, and that "we're planning on winning it."

On Thursday, Curlin came out to train at about 7:15 a.m. Eastern at Churchill, where Asmussen currently has most of his top horses. Just as Curlin was coming out onto the track, Street Sense was finishing up a two-mile gallop under exercise rider Mark Cutler. Street Sense jogged Sunday, walked two days, galloped a mile Wednesday, then had his most strenuous exercise since the Derby on Thursday.

Trainer Carl Nafzger said the colt would walk again Friday, then resume galloping Saturday, with the possibility of a workout Monday or Tuesday before being flown to Baltimore on Wednesday.

"That's the basics for my horses after they run," said Nafzger. "Jog, walk two, gallop two, walk one. If I go off of that, it's abnormal."

As of Thursday, 11 3-year-olds were under consideration for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness: Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun, Teuflesberg, Flying First Class, Starbase, Chelokee, King of the Roxy, Xchanger, C P West, and Mint Slewlep.

Entries will be drawn Wednesday at the ESPN Zone in downtown Baltimore.

In other Preakness developments:

* Hard Spun, the Derby runner-up, jogged three-eighths of a mile before galloping 1 1/4 miles at Delaware Park on Thursday, his second day back to training.

"I'm very pleased with the way he's come back," said trainer Larry Jones. "It's much better than I could've expected."

* It now appears that two flights will be chartered Wednesday from Louisville to Baltimore, according to Buddy Fife, booking agent for Tex Sutton. "In about a 24-hour period, we went from 10 to 24 horses wanting to go," said Fife. Those flights probably will leave Louisville at about 8 a.m. and noon, he added.

* Calvin Borel, the jockey for Street Sense, has been in high demand from the media since the Derby, but his agent, Jerry Hissam, has been limiting what is accepted. "It's not how we got where we are," said Hissam. Among those whom Hissam said he has turned down: "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."