01/02/2008 12:00AM

Baker pins hopes on Notgivinmyloveaway


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - With the possible exceptions of being Canadian and a showman of chickens and ducks, Reade Baker is not unlike any of the other trainers who will saddle a Kentucky Derby hopeful Saturday in the Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Baker is hoping that Notgivinmyloveaway, one of 10 entered in the seven-furlong Hutcheson, will pass what shapes up as a rugged test in Gulfstream's first milestone in the annual Florida Derby series for 3-year-olds.

"Numbers-wise, he matches up," said Baker, a perennial leading trainer at Woodbine who has 15 horses stabled at the Palm Meadows training center. "But I know it's one thing to have numbers, and another to run against good horses."

Notgivinmyloveaway, a Pennsylvania-bred by Not for Love, showed promise in three races on Polytrack at Woodbine before shipping to Philadelphia Park and cruising to a five-length victory against statebreds in the Nov. 24 Pennsylvania Nursery. Baker said the colt has trained extremely well since then, first at Woodbine and more recently at Palm Meadows.

Baker has been migrating from his native Canada to Florida for the winter for some 40 years. He has never had a serious Derby contender but said he would not mind finding out what that's all about.

"Sure I'd like to stretch this colt out, but first let's see where he fits with these," he said.

Edgar Prado is named to ride Notgivinmyloveaway in the Hutcheson, which ultimately leads to a pair of 1 1/8-mile races, the Feb. 24 Fountain of Youth and March 29 Florida Derby.

Baker, 60, has a lengthy and fascinating background in racing - and apparently with other animals, according to his website, Readebaker.com. The website profile says he has "been quite successful with his hobby of showing birds, mainly chickens and ducks, which you will see around the barn at Woodbine."

From the rail, the field for the 56th Hutcheson is Tiz It, Grand Minstrel, Cool Coal Man, Halo Najib, Smooth Air, Silver Edition, Big Truck, Notgivinmyloveaway, Golden Spikes, and Coal Play.

The Hutcheson is carded as the ninth of 10 Saturday races.

Undercard spotlights 3-year-olds

Besides the Canadian Turf Handicap, the Friday card at Gulfstream includes several races with potential implications for the 3-year-old colt and filly divisions.

Foremost among those races is the sixth, a $40,500 first-level allowance. Nick Zito has two of the 11 colts and geldings in the one-mile race, although Coal Play, cross-entered in the Hutcheson, could scratch, leaving him only Stevil, a maiden winner at Belmont Park last fall. Other contenders include Mythical Pegasus, who exits three straight stakes for D. Wayne Lukas, and Mambo Meister, who earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure in a Calder maiden romp last out. In general, horses that win or run well in such a competitive Gulf allowance are considered live for the Derby.

Other Friday races of significance include two maiden special weight events, races 3 and 8. In the third race, Tiz It, already with a 90 Beyer on his record, figures as the favorite for trainer John Terranova, although he, too, is cross-entered in the Hutcheson.

As for the fillies, a $40,000 allowance sprint drew a field of eight led by the stakes-seasoned Yogi'ssplashofgold, trained by Wesley Ward.

Eight lined up for Mr. Prospector

A field of eight older horses has been entered for the Saturday co-feature at Gulfstream, the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Handicap, which will go as race 7. Grand Champion and Mach Ride look like prime contenders in a field that shapes up this way: Noonmark, Finallymadeit, Guapeton, Mach Ride, Keyed Entry, Grand Champion, Roi Maudit, and Brother Bud.

One notable absentee is Kelly's Landing, winner of the 2007 Dubai Golden Shaheen. Trainer Eddie Kenneally said he expects the 7-year-old gelding to race later at the meet.

Small field expected for Sabin

Two Grade 3 handicaps will be run Sunday at Gulf, with a small field of fillies and mares expected for the $150,000 Sabin but a larger group of older males likely for the $100,000 Hal's Hope. Both races will be run at a mile on the main track.

As of Wednesday, the only confirmed starters for the Sabin were Lady Marlboro, Leona's Knight, and Silver Knockers. For the Hal's Hope, the likely favorite is Chatain, who will bypass the Mr. Prospector in favor of this spot.

Early-bird system may be scrapped

The early-bird nominations are out for the Florida Derby, but new racing secretary Bill Couch said this probably is the last year for a system that does not seem to draw sufficient interest from horsemen. Whereas in previous years there have been well over 100 early-bird nominees, this year there are only 33.

For a $625 fee that was due Nov. 21, a horse could have been nominated for four 3-year-old races, including the $1 million Florida Derby; the other races are the Hutcheson, Swale, and Fountain of Youth. After the early-bird deadline, a $3,000 nominating fee is due March 15 for the Florida Derby, while considerably less expensive nominating fees apply to the earlier preps.

Couch said a more standard nominating process probably would be used next year for the series because gathering early-bird nominations during the previous fall is a difficult task, primarily because horsemen "are too busy to even think about" a race more than four months away.

Mac Diarmida will go two weeks later

Couch also has made a change to his 2008 stakes schedule, moving the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Handicap back two weeks from its original spot on March 2 to March 16. The $150,000 Mac Diarmida is carded for 4-year-olds and up going 1 3/8 miles on the turf. In its original position, it would have come up just eight days after the Grade 1, $250,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes, which is decided under the same conditions and at the same distance on the grass.

"We just needed to space the two races a little further apart," Couch said.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch