01/31/2009 12:00AM

Bad post makes Beethoven's task more difficult


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer John Ward Jr. had pretty much mapped out a plan for his Kentucky Derby hopeful Beethoven. He would have two starts at Gulfstream Park - Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull followed by the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 28 - before heading to the big dance five weeks later.

Then they drew the post positions for the Holy Bull.

Beethoven wound up on the outside, in post 11, for the 1 1/8-mile Holy Bull. That leaves open the possibility Ward might have to consider other options for his top 3-year-old prospect if Beethoven doesn't get the graded earnings Ward thinks he might need to get into the Kentucky Derby.

"Everything was fine until we got the 11 hole," said Ward. "But the main goal for this race was to get some graded money. Now that we're on the outside, things could get a little testy. Especially since there's such a huge spread of weights between us and some of the horses on the inside."

Beethoven, who shares high weight of 122 pounds with West Side Bernie under the allowance conditions of the $150,000 Holy Bull, showed steady improvement as a 2-year-old, culminating with a neck victory in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs.

"He's ready, he couldn't be going into the race any better," said Ward. "He'd be pretty tough to handle if he was coming out of the 4 hole. Unfortunately, that's a variable we cannot control. But I've got Calvin Borel, he knows the situation, and I'm just going to leave it up to him."

Although West Side Bernie drew just inside Beethoven in post 10, trainer Kelly Breen did not seem as concerned about his post as Ward.

"I don't think post 10 is all that bad because my horse has enough tactical speed to get where we need to be," said Breen.

West Side Bernie was also a graded stakes winner at 2, having captured the Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Juvenile in his second start. He finished sixth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and closed out the year finishing second behind Big Drama in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot.

"He's doing great and I'm very excited about him," said Breen. "I think by the way he keeps running in his races that the added distance should help him. He was running at the end of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and that was against the best 2-year-olds in the country at the time."

For those who believe the outside posts will be too big an obstacle for both of the favorites to overcome, there are many live alternatives to be found among the large field.

Danger to Society is undefeated in two starts and well drawn in post 2 for trainer Ken McPeek.

Rockland has won his last two starts, both around two turns, one each on turf and dirt.

Stately Character won his maiden against stakes company at Calder at 2 and might have been best when finishing third in his 3-year-old debut following a very eventful trip.

Nowhere to Hide may be trainer Nick Zito's top Derby candidate and is coming off a maiden win at Calder.

Bruce N Autumn disappointed in his local bow but returned with a very impressive work and breaks from the advantageous inside post in his stakes debut.