10/20/2002 11:00PM

BC Countdown - Juvenile: Recent losers still plan to show up

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Despite his upset loss in last Saturday's Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, Tomahawk was to make the trans-Atlantic flight Tuesday from Ireland with the intention of running in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Arlington Park, trainer Aidan O'Brien said.

O'Brien said Tomahawk, runner-up in the Dewhurst, and Marino Marini, who finished seventh in that race, would accompany his confirmed Juvenile runners Hold That Tiger and Van Nistelrooy to Chicago. O'Brien said his fifth Juvenile pre-entrant, Ontario, would most likely remain in Ireland.

The decision to start Tomahawk or Marino Marini would depend on how they handle the traveling, O'Brien said. Marino Marini is the first alternate and could only run if Tomahawk didn't or if another horse defected.

"At the moment they're going [to Chicago],'' O'Brien said Monday from his Ballydoyle base. "We're going to see which one takes the journey the best. We don't have to declare until 10 a.m. Wednesday.''

O'Brien said he was very happy with Tomahawk's race in the Dewhurst, in which he was beaten 1 1/4 lengths by longshot Tout Seul. O'Brien said Tomahawk, a son of Seattle Slew, ``"looks to be a dirt horse and that's the reason we'd be coming. He seems to have come out of the race well.''

Thus, it looks like O'Brien will have three of the 14 runners in the field as he seeks a second consecutive victory in the Juvenile. Last year, he won it with Johannesburg, who completed a 7 for 7 campaign with his Juvenile win over Repent at Belmont Park.

This year, O'Brien's juveniles have been playing catch-up ever since a virus swept through his barn in early August. O'Brien said one of the few horses unaffected by the bug was Van Nistelrooy, a half-brother to Belmont Stakes winner Editor's Note by Storm Cat. Susan Magnier purchased Van Nistelrooy for $6.4 million at the 2001 Keeneland September Sale.

After winning his first three starts, Van Nistelrooy finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length in the Group 1 National Stakes at seven furlongs on Sept. 15. Thirteen days later, he finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at a mile. Both races were on turf.

Speaking of the National Stakes, O'Brien said "it was a very slowly run race, and he got trapped very wide. He loves company, loves to be in a battle, but it was over before we knew what happened.''

In the Royal Lodge Stakes, O'Brien said jockey Mick Kinane "dropped him in between horses to educate him and he dropped him in too much. But, he looks like he's well bred to get the mile and a furlong, mile and a quarter.''

Based on his scintillating last-to-first move in the Grand Criterium Stakes, Hold That Tiger may be considered O'Brien's best Juvenile prospect. A son of Storm Cat, Hold That Tiger had won his first two races in June before finishing last as the even-money favorite in the Group 1 Phoenix Stakes. But, Hold That Tiger came out of the race sick and O'Brien believes he may have been harboring something before the race.

"We're very happy with this fella,'' O'Brien said. "He hasn't had as much racing, and might not be as hardened as Johannesburg, but he has an awful lot of talent.''

Sky Mesa in slow breeze

Sky Mesa, the probable Juvenile favorite, went a slow five furlongs in 1:05.60 at Arlington. Donna Ward, assistant to and wife of trainer John Ward, said the work was the result of overly cautious instructions to exercise rider Danny Ramsey.

"This was more a case of me cautioning the boy against going 59 or a minute,'' Ward said. "I'd have preferred to have gone a little faster, but he's fit. It doesn't worry me in any way. If it worries somebody else, that's their prerogative.''

* At Woodbine, Grey Stakes winner Wando worked six furlongs in 1:14, the fastest of six moves at the distance. Woodbine clockers caught him in splits of 26.60 seconds, 50, and out seven furlongs in 1:29.20 He started behind a maiden 2-year-old filly, Flying Gris, and finished well in front.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch and Bill Tallon