10/02/2002 11:00PM

Blinkers was all it took

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Based on Valenzo's lack of success in the first two starts of his career, it would have sounded ridiculous if trainer Allen Iwinski suggested the 2-year-old colt had stakes potential.

In a pair of sprints for maidens, Valenzo displayed not a drop of speed or any ability to gain ground late. He was beaten a combined 30 lengths and finished ahead of only three horses.

Iwinski decided to experiment by stretching out Valenzo to a mile and adding blinkers. Valenzo responded to the changes by wiring a field of maidens by 3 1/4 lengths at Delaware Park, improving his Beyer Speed Figure from a pathetic 34 to a more than respectable 79.

Now, Iwinski is talking about running Valenzo back in the $100,000 Dover Stakes, a one-mile race at Delaware on Oct. 26.

Valenzo, a son of You and I out of a mare named Valenza, is part of the Iwin 00 syndicate. Since 1999, Iwinski and some of his owners have purchased about a half-dozen yearlings at sales. The group acquired Valenzo for $65,000 at last year's Keeneland September sale.

"We paid the most money for him of any of the horses we bought last year in that partnership," Iwinski said.

He said he knew Valenzo had more talent than he displayed at Monmouth Park in his first two races.

"It was frustrating because he showed a lot of ability in the morning, but not in the afternoon," Iwinski said. "My assistant trainer indicated to me that he needed blinkers, but I hate to put blinkers on young horses until they get a little experience.

"The first time we ran him, he lollygagged around there and he did not get into the race much. The second time we ran him, he actually looked like he needed blinkers. He looked like he was shying from horses and looking around, which you could see in the race. So we went ahead and put blinkers on him and stretched him out to a mile and we got very positive results."

Valenzo certainly has the pedigree to be successful. He's a full brother to The Missing Key, winner of a stakes at Philadelphia Park, and a half-brother to Whitewaterspritzer, who won the Colonial Cup Stakes at Colonial Downs.

Kelso contenders in a drought

There's nothing in the condition book for Saturday's $100,000 Kelso Stakes that states a horse must not have won a race in six months to be eligible. Nevertheless, the top three choices on Delaware's morning line for the 1 3/16-mile Kelso are all in the midst of long losing streaks.

Ground Storm, winner of the Grade 3 Stymie at Aqueduct in early March, is 0 for 5 since then, but showed some signs of life finishing second in an allowance at Belmont on Sept. 15.

Yankee Doodle Boy last won on March 8 at Aqueduct, but is winless in four subsequent starts. He most recently finished fourth in an allowance at Saratoga.

Jarf has lost five in a row since winning an allowance race at Aqueduct on March 22. He most recently finished third in an overnight stakes at Delaware on Aug. 20.

The horse with the best current form in the Kelso is Full Brush. A 7-year-old trained by Edmond Gaudet, Full Brush won a minor stakes at Timonium in early September and came back three weeks later to finish second, earning a 100 Beyer, in an overnight stakes at Delaware.