04/05/2005 12:00AM

Bandini gets back to work

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photos
Bandini, shown training in Florida recently, is now in Kentucky for the April 16 Blue Grass.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Bandini is back in action. After being withheld from the Florida Derby last weekend because of a foot bruise, Bandini worked five furlongs Tuesday morning at Keeneland, where the 15-day spring meet begins Friday.

With Angel Cordero Jr. aboard, Bandini finished in 1:00.60 over a fast track.

"It looks like we're in good shape," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "He worked good, and we're back on schedule. If everything holds together like you'd hope, then we'll be all set for the Blue Grass."

The Blue Grass Stakes - the meet's premier race, which will be run April 16 - became Pletcher's revised target for Bandini's final race after Bandini was forced to miss several days of training, as well as the Florida Derby, because of the foot bruise. Bandini blossomed into a major Derby contender this winter with two wins and a second at Gulfstream Park.

Bandini is one of at least five 3-year-olds expected for what is shaping up as a sensational renewal of the Blue Grass. The other probables include Sun King, High Limit, and Consolidator - all among the current Derby favorites - along with Mr Sword and possibly Closing Argument.

Closing Argument, another who missed the Florida Derby because of a foot bruise, also worked here Tuesday morning, going an easy half-mile in 52 seconds.

The Blue Grass will be the second of three Grade 1 races to be run here this spring. The first comes Saturday, when 3-year-old filly candidates for the Kentucky Oaks will clash in the $500,000 Ashland Stakes.

Sis City, a 16-length winner of the March 5 Davona Dale at Gulfstream in her last start, could be the slight favorite in a terrific Ashland lineup. Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Sis City prepped for the Ashland with a bullet work here Tuesday morning, getting a half-mile in 47.40 seconds.

The others pointing to the 1 1/16-mile Ashland include Sharp Lisa, who won two graded stakes at Santa Anita this winter, including the Grade 1 Las Virgenes; Summerly, a winner of two graded stakes at Fair Grounds this winter; Runway Model, winner of the Grade 2 Alcibiades Stakes here last fall; and Letgomyecho, unbeaten in three career starts, including the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream in her latest.

Other Ashland prospects include In the Gold and Memorette.

Sis City will be ridden by Edgar Prado, who has been dominant in Keeneland stakes the last several years. Since the 2001 spring meet, Prado has won 20 stakes here, second only to Pat Day's 23. Day, who has been the leading rider at 22 Keeneland meets, is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing hip surgery in Colorado last week.

Even with Day out, the spring-meet jockey roster may be the most impressive in track history. Besides Prado, others expected on a regular basis include Jerry Bailey, John Velazquez, Gary Stevens, Mike Smith, Jose Santos, Robby Albarado, and Rafael Bejarano.

"It's like a Hall of Fame list, huh?" said Pletcher.

The nine-race Friday opener will be highlighted by the $150,000 Transylvania Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile on turf. Dubleo, with Velazquez riding for Pletcher, brings a 5-for-6 turf record into the Transylvania and figures to be heavily favored in a sizable field.