03/07/2008 12:00AM

Brothers returns Tessa Blue

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Frank Brothers has spent plenty of time in the limelight over the years at Gulfstream Park with horses such as Pulpit, First Samurai, and Madcap Escapade. And whether stakes-caliber or claiming types, his horses always made a great appearance when they trained over the track in the morning.

But Brothers has been conspicuously absent here this winter, exiled instead to Palm Meadows where he's taken up residence with a stable of 16 that includes the multiple stakes winner Tessa Blue, who makes her 2008 debut in Sunday's Grade 2 Rampart Handicap.

"That's what happens when you get old and have slow horses," Brothers quipped when asked about being stabled at Palm Meadows this season. "You get set in your ways after being in the same place for so many years, and I've always preferred to stable where I ran.

"But perhaps they did me a favor sending me to Palm Meadows because it's really a wonderful place to train."

Tessa Blue won the Grade 3 Indiana Oaks by 7 1/4 lengths and the Inside Information Breeders' Cup at Monmouth by 12 lengths within a three-week span last October. She concluded her 3-year-old campaign by finishing fourth after an unlucky start against older fillies and mares in the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 22.

"I was a little hard-headed about stretching her out, but once I did I had a new horse," said Brothers, who is married to former jockey and now racing analyst Donna Barton Brothers. "She moved to a new level with those two big wins."

Tessa Blue will have her hands full in her 2008 debut, going up against Golden Velvet, Ballado's Thunder, and Sprint Waltz in the 1o1/8-mile Rampart.

Said Brothers: "I gave her time off to freshen up after the Falls City, and this is obviously not the ideal place to come back in - although around here it's the same deal. You either start back at a mile, which I didn't want to do, or a mile and an eighth.

"I guess we're pretty much committed to the lead from the rail, and hopefully she'll run and start showing us at what level she'll fit this year."

Brothers also said that his multiple-stakes-winning filly Bel Air Beauty has been retired and will be bred this spring. Bel Air Beauty, winner of the Grade 2 Alcibiades at 2, closed out her career finishing sixth in the Suwannee River Handicap on Feb. 3.

Brothers said she was retired due to a "throat problem."

Forefathers makes 2008 debut

Forefathers, who has not started since finishing last in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, will launch his comeback under second-level allowance conditions in Sunday's fifth race. Forefathers, a son of Gone West, finished second in the Grade 2 Swale here last winter and second in the Grade 2 Jerome handicap three weeks before the Breeders' Cup.

The race also marks the return of Deadly Dealer, who ran third behind Curlin last spring in the Arkansas Derby but has been idle since late July.

Fierce Wind, Anak Nakal work

Fierce Wind, winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, worked a half -mile in 49 seconds, while his stablemate Anak Nakal breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80 at Palm Meadows on Thursday. Both horses are owned by Four Roses Thoroughbreds and trained by Nick Zito.

Zito said Fierce Wind could start next in the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29.

DePaulo pair has designs on Queen's Plate

Trainer Michael DePaulo is also spending the winter at Palm Meadows. DePaulo, who is based for most of the year at Woodbine, has started only two horses at the Gulfstream Park meet, but he has kept busy preparing his two top 3-year-old prospects for a potential run at the Queen's Plate, Canada's counterpart to the Kentucky Derby.

DePaulo's most experienced Queen's Plate candidate, Deputiformer, had the misfortune of catching the monster named Big Brown while launching his 3-year-old campaign here Wednesday. He finished a distant third behind the undefeated and as yet untested Big Brown. DePaulo's second Queen's Plate hopeful, Giquere, moved a step closer to his 3-year-old debut after working six furlongs in 1:16.60 at Palm Meadows on Friday.

Giquere, a son of Mutakddim, won his only start impressively, rallying to a 5 1/2-length maiden special weight triumph on Dec. 9 at Woodbine. Named after the NHL Anaheim Ducks' goalie Jean-Sebastien Giquere, Giquere has worked seven times in Florida this winter.

"He's had only one start, but I think he can be a Plate horse," said DePaulo. "The owner turned down an offer for $1 million after his first race."

DePaulo also has a former Canadian 3-year-old champion among the horses he brought down for the winter - the 2006 Sovereign winner Shillelagh Slew.

"I know I've only started a couple of horses at the meet," he said. "Basically, I'm here to beat the winter up north and to get my horses ready for when we return to Woodbine in the spring."