04/07/2003 11:00PM

Atswhatimtalknbout: Blinkers


ARCADIA, Calif. - Trainer Ron Ellis will put blinkers on Atswhatimtalknbout when the colt resumes serious training next week at Churchill Downs, and if the blinkers produce the desired result in morning workouts, the colt will wear them for the first time in a race when he starts in the Kentucky Derby.

Atswhatimtalknbout finished fourth as the 3-2 favorite Saturday in the Santa Anita Derby, won by Buddy Gil. Tuesday, Ellis was still puzzled by Atswhatimtalknbout's performance.

"His legs are perfect, his feet are as good as they've ever been, he just wasn't himself," Ellis said. "But he only got beat three and a half lengths. It's not like he got beat 10 lengths. It's his first bad race."

Ellis speculated a skin fungus on Atswhatimtalknbout, and medication used to treat the resulting rash, could have contributed to the colt's dullness. The trainer admitted, however, "it's just a guess. I'm reaching; I really didn't think the [rash] was that bad."

Results of post-race blood work were returned to Ellis Tuesday, and came back clear.

Ellis and jockey David Flores agree Atswhatimtalknbout is likely to benefit from the addition of blinkers.

"David said he's just playing, and I can't have him looking around [in the race]," Ellis said. "I need to have him a little more on the bit without asking him."

Atswhatimtalknbout was scheduled to leave Wednesday for Kentucky; his first workout next week at Churchill Downs will be in blinkers.

"With all horses, blinkers make them a little more aggressive," Ellis said. "I'll work him with blinkers, and see what happens. We're not out of the game. It's the first bump in the road."

Although Ellis is 0 for 9 with horses adding blinkers for the first time since the start of last year, his long-term blinkers-on percentage is higher. Ellis has won with five of last 25 starters adding blinkers.

Atswhatimtalknbout will not be the first high-profile colt this spring to add blinkers. Empire Maker, the Kentucky Derby favorite, added blinkers for the Florida Derby and scored a runaway win.

Buddy Gil has excuses, and victories

Buddy Gil was already back on the racetrack Tuesday morning, jogging one mile just three days after his Santa Anita Derby win. Although Buddy Gil bled from the nostrils after the Santa Anita Derby, trainer Jeff Mullins does not consider the incident a major concern. Mullins cited two factors that helped cause the bleeding. He said Buddy Gil coughed so much from eating dirt during the race that it forced blood through his nose. He also was compromised by an irregular training pattern.

A bruised hind foot sustained in a pre-derby workout caused Buddy Gil to miss some training time. By the time the foot healed, there was not enough time for a second workout before the April 5 derby.

"We worked him a quarter-mile at the end of a gallop [April 1], but it probably wasn't quite enough," Mullins said. "He probably had to dig a little deeper than he should have. The training pattern going in was not ideal."

It leads Mullins to wonder what Buddy Gil might accomplish with a standard training pattern and a clean trip. In his previous win in the San Felipe, Buddy Gil was blocked into and through much of the stretch.

"We still don't know how good he is," Mullins said. "He can do anything - turf, sprint, route."

However, Buddy Gil has not yet done it all. "We haven't roped any cows with him yet, which is not to say he wouldn't do it."

Buddy Gil will work a half-mile Monday, and then board a flight to Churchill Downs the next day. His tentative workout pattern then calls for a six-furlong workout April 21. Gary Stevens will work Buddy Gil, who will be examined by a veterinarian in Kentucky after the work. If he does not bleed, Buddy Gil will be removed from the California bleeders list and be cleared to run in the Kentucky Derby. His final pre-Derby workout would be a five-furlong workout April 28.

Summer Service stays in California

Mullins also considered shipping Summer Service to Churchill Downs - for the April 26 Derby Trial. A California-bred sired by Siberian Summer, Summer Service was claimed for $40,000 from a March 1 maiden win by Mullins and owner Richard Englander. On April 4 in his first start for Mullins, Summer Service produced one of the year's fastest races by any 3-year-old.

Summer Service blazed six furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:09.40, winning a starter allowance race by eight lengths and earning a 108 Beyer Speed Figure. It is the fourth-highest Beyer earned this year by a 3-year-old winner.

"We thought about the Derby Trial, but we can stay here and run against California-breds for $100,000 more," Mullins said.

Summer Service will point for the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes, a nine-furlong race on the April 26 Gold Rush card at Hollywood Park.

Mullins said unbeaten California-bred filly Just Too Too also would aim for a Gold Rush stakes race, the $200,000 Melair Stakes, and San Pedro Stakes winner King Robyn would run April 23, opening day of the Hollywood spring-summer meet. King Robyn is the likely favorite in the $75,000 Harry Henson Stakes for 3-year-olds at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf.

Island Fashion to train up to Oaks

The lightly raced Island Fashion, trained by Nick Canani, has earned a trip to face the best of her division. A two-length winner of the $256,450 Sunland Park Oaks March 29, Island Fashion leaves April 17 for Churchill Downs where she will train up to the Kentucky Oaks. Island Fashion was making only her third career start in the Sunland race, winning the one-mile race with a 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

"The distance is really going to help her; she'll run all day," Canani said Tuesday of the 1 1/8-mile Oaks distance. "We haven't given her an easy campaign, but we haven't pushed on her really hard either. She came out of her last race fantastic."

Island Fashion will enter the Oaks as one of the most rapidly improving fillies in the race. She earned a 62 Beyer in her fourth-place debut Feb. 1 at Turf Paradise, followed by an 83 in a March 5 maiden race at Santa Anita, followed by the 91 at Sunland.

"She's run three times at three different tracks, and I think he's peaking at the right time," Canani said. "I don't think we've reached the bottom of her yet."

Canani said no rider has been named yet. Island Fashion closed at odds of 48-1 in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager.