04/04/2009 12:00AM

Bennett not fully satisfied with second-best


OLDSMAR, Fla. - When a trainer has won 8 of his last 27 starts, you don't expect him to describe his feelings about his stable's fortunes as "frustrating." But that is exactly how Gerald Bennett and his outfit feel these days.

Since Flyingpalm won here on March 20, the Bennett stable has been winning at better than a 30 percent clip.

Unfortunately, they have been finishing second more often than they have been winning. When Peak of the Storm ran second in the opener on Saturday's program, it was the 11th time since March 20 that a Bennett runner has finished second. To make it even more frustrating, a good number of those finishes have been photos, with Bennett starters losing by noses, heads, and necks.

"It's been a good period for the outfit, but it could have been so much better if we could have been on the winning end of some of those photos," an exasperated Bennett explained recently. "When you think you've done your job as a trainer and have gotten your horse ready and you've found the right spot to run them, it's tough to see them run hard and just not get much racing luck."

Noting that he was 12 victories behind leading trainer Kirk Ziadie and second in the standings, Bennett said, "If we had won say eight of those tight photos we could have made a race of it. Anybody who says luck doesn't play a part in this business isn't paying attention. We're doing well, and I'm proud of the outfit. One thing about it, if you're in a photo you've done something right."

McCarron following graduate<.strong>

Apprentice Mike Straight continues to impress, having won with 4 of his last 8 mounts coming into Saturday's program, and has an interested spectator watching his progress from Kentucky.

Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron, head of the North American Racing Academy, of which Straight is a graduate, was checking on his pupil's progress when contacted recently.

"I try to keep and eye on our guys and gals and talk with them periodically to see how things are progressing," McCarron said. "We try to give them advice not only on the technical points of riding but on their eating habits, their physical fitness routines, and how to handle their finances, traveling arrangements, and things like that.

"Most of these young folks are being asked to learn a lot in a short amount of time," said McCarron, "and sometimes it can get a little overwhelming. We want them to not only be successful as riders, we want them to be successful in their lives outside the track as well. We suggest they speak with certain riders and ex-riders who have been through the ups and downs of the business and get some advice from them."

No joking

Speed pundits checking the charts from April 1 at Tampa may have thought someone was playing an April Fool's Day joke when they saw some of the blistering fast early fractions in the sprint races that day, but in truth it was Mother Nature who was at fault.

Strong winds that the National Weather Service estimated to be as high as 40 mph were prevalent that afternoon and were blowing straight down the backstretch. There were several half-mile clockings in the 44-second-and-change range, and Brooks Star set a track record of 1:16.09 for 6 1/2 furlongs, winning the second race by more than nine lengths.