10/14/2007 11:00PM

Barn regroups this year after retirement of stable stars

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - Even now, about a year after Bernardini's final start, it's probably fair to begin any discussion on the training career of Tom Albertrani with last year's three-time Grade 1 winner and champion 3-year-old.

Bernardini began his career with a fourth-place finish in maiden company and ended it with a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. In between, under astute management by Albertrani, all the colt did was win six races in a row by a combined margin of 40 lengths. His final placing came at the hooves of Horse of the Year Invasor, and Bernardini wrapped up his career with more than $3 million in purses earned.

"To me it all started with the Preakness," said Albertrani, 49, who oversees a public stable of about 40 horses from Belmont Park and previously worked as an assistant to Bill Mott, then to Saeed bin Suroor for Godolphin in Dubai, and ultimately as a trainer for Darley Stable. "Bernardini went into that win with only three starts under his belt, and it was a major achievement for the horse and myself. I think it got me on the map."

Fueled by Bernardini's efforts, the Albertrani barn won with 37 of 190 runners last year, with stable earnings of more than $5.2 million. Thus far in 2007, Albertrani's numbers are respectable - 27 wins, 14 percent win rate, nearly $1.2 million banked - and similar to last year if you account for the loss of his stable star.

"I've known this year was not going to be like last year," Albertrani said in an understatement. "We've had several - Balletto, Bernardini, Deputy Glitters, Songster - retire in about one year's time, and that makes a major difference. We knew this year would not make our best year, but more a year in which we'd regroup with some nice young horses and move forward."

Young runners to watch in his barn include juveniles Smoke'n Coal, a three-length maiden winner in his September debut, and New Chapter and Music Note, a pair of A.P. Indy fillies for Darley who ran second and fourth in their respective debut races.

Albertrani's stats bear strength with horses racing with blinkers and Lasix for the first time, but extremely impressive are his percentages in stakes (20 percent) and graded stakes (26 percent). Obviously, those races are tougher to win, and talking to Albertrani you very much get the feeling he doesn't enter them to see his name in the track program.

"Being fortunate enough to be around horses like Cigar, Dubai Millennium, and Bernardini taught me to be more confident around nice horses and to treat a good horse like your others," said Albertrani, co-winner of the New York Turf Writers Association's Red Smith "Good Guy" award in 2006. "You have to run your horses where they are best suited and be competitive, not race them over their heads, and know when to take chances. As for categories where we do well or stats, I like to think we've done a nice job with horses off the bench and with first-time starters."

Albertrani's training philosophies are very much in tune with maximizing a runner's career and not any one race.

"I'm patient with a horse," he said. "I don't work horses on the fast side - Bernardini never even worked fast - and tend to be easier on a horse. I think most know that about our barn, and I think we get results like that. I think long term with horses, and health and soundness are of utmost importance. It's my belief when you work horses fast you are opening the door to more injuries."

Albertrani cannot expect to train another like Bernardini, and while the newspaper interviews, television cameras, and free hats and jackets from the Breeders' Cup were more plentiful for him last year compared to this year, he can expect to be at the top level in this game for a long time to come.