04/14/2005 12:00AM

Bandini's going to need some luck

D. Wayne Lukas (left) and Bobby Frankel check out horses on the track at Keeneland on Thursday morning.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Seven post positions were drawn for the . Of those, the No. 7 that Bandini was assigned "would have been my seventh choice," said the colt's trainer, Todd Pletcher.

Considering the way the Blue Grass shapes up, Pletcher's chagrin is understandable, since Bandini seems at a distinct tactical disadvantage. Every horse in the Blue Grass can be fairly classified as a speed horse or a stalker, so early positioning and strategy seem critical to the final outcome. Pletcher said the tough post means jockey John Velazquez could have difficulty getting Bandini into a comfortable spot.

"We've just got to hope a couple horses will clear, and a couple will fall back, and Johnny will be able to move over and save some ground into the first turn," said Pletcher. "Everybody knows you don't want to be hung outside on the first turn at Keeneland - or the second turn, either, for that matter."

Partly because of the outside post, Bandini figures to be the fourth wagering choice in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass behind Sun King, High Limit, and Consolidator. Pletcher said that if he wants to make the Kentucky Derby with Bandini, he had little choice but to accept the post position and see what happens Saturday.

"We're going to deal with it the best we can," he said.

Bandini, owned by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, blossomed into a top Kentucky Derby contender with two wins and a runner-up finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes in three starts this winter at Gulfstream Park. He was forced to miss the April 2 Florida Derby because of a minor foot bruise, an ailment that Pletcher said is no longer an issue.

Bandini probably will need at least a second- or third-place finish in the $750,000 Blue Grass to be assured of a Derby spot. With just $60,000 in graded earnings, he is in a precarious position in regard to the 20-horse limit based on that criterion.

Mr Sword needs better-timed move

Even though he will have Jerry Bailey riding him, Mr Sword is likely to be the longest shot in the Blue Grass field. Jennifer Pedersen, who trains Mr Sword for Ernie Paragallo's Paraneck Stable, said she hopes Bailey will be able to get Mr Sword to kick at the right time and make a major impact in the outcome.

Three weeks ago in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park, timing was everything for Mr Sword. After making a bold move up the rail to take command leaving the half-mile pole, Mr Sword kept opening up and appeared well on his way to a convincing victory under Norberto Arroyo.

But that flashy move proved to be premature. Flower Alley and Wild Desert flew past in deep stretch as Mr Sword wound up third, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.

"I actually knew we were going to be in trouble because I thought he moved way too early," said Pedersen.

Mr Sword, a Florida-bred by Rizzi, tuned up for the Blue Grass with a five-furlong work in a quick 57.80 seconds here Tuesday. He drew post 1 and figures to be outrun by at least a few speedier rivals into the first turn, but after that, whatever unfolds will be up to Bailey.

"Jerry is a master, so I don't feel like I need to tell him anything," said Pedersen. "We're just hoping the horse runs his race so that we'll be faced with a big decision about whether or not to run in the Derby."

If Mr Sword can somehow pull the big upset Saturday, it will continue a nifty trend for Pedersen. Although based primarily in New York, two of the biggest victories in her five-year training career have come in Kentucky with 3-year-olds in the spring: She won the 2001 Lafayette at Keeneland with Griffinite and the 2003 Lane's End at Turfway with New York Hero.

Catching sight of Derby horses early

During the 10 or so months a year when Randy Wehrman isn't working as a placing judge at Keeneland, he is the stakes coordinator at River Downs and Turfway Park. And as the field for the 131st Kentucky Derby has taken shape, Wehrman is bursting with pride.

The Sept. 6 Cradle Stakes at River is where Bellamy Road, the likely Derby favorite, won his stakes debut. Greater Good, who could become one of the top Derby choices if he completes a sweep of the Oaklawn Park winter-spring series by winning the Arkansas Derby, won his stakes debut in the Sept. 18 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway.

Wehrman noted that although the Cradle had carried a Grade 3 rating for years, the race lost its grade for the 2004 running.

"Ironic, isn't it?" he said. "Hopefully what Bellamy Road has done will get us the grade back."

Jockeys immortalized in cement

A downtown Louisville hotel has invited the 30 living jockeys who have won the Kentucky Derby to participate in a tribute to the race by having their handprints preserved in cement outside the main hotel entrance.

A ceremony has been scheduled for May 5 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern at the Galt House to unveil the "Gallop to Glory" site. Every year a new jockey wins the Derby, his or her handprints will be added.

Three jockeys were at the Galt House last week to become the first to leave their imprints: Mike Manganello, who won aboard Dust Commander in 1970; Jean Cruguet (Seattle Slew, 1977); and Craig Perret (Unbridled, 1990).

* Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens has been fined $250 for misjudging the finish line during a winning ride here Sunday. Stevens momentarily stood up near the sixteenth pole as Dynamic Cat drove to a 1 3/4-length victory in the sixth race, a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance.