04/01/2008 11:00PM

Bsharpsonata brings Salzman back

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - John Salzman long ago made his peace with Kentucky. A quarter-century after being soured by a bizarre series of events that went against him, the Maryland horseman is looking to notch another graded stakes victory at Keeneland.

In March 1983, Salzman traveled from Maryland to saddle Noble Home for a second-place finish in the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park. Turns out, the winner of the race, Marfa, should not have been eligible to run because he had lower earnings than other horses who were excluded from the oversubscribed field. But much to Salzman's everlasting amazement and dismay, the Kentucky Racing Commission declined to disqualify Marfa even after a lengthy series of legal actions.

Time has healed that wound, however, and Salzman, having already savored the Keeneland fruits by winning the 2001 Beaumont and the 2002 Phoenix with the sensational filly Xtra Heat, is happy to be preparing Bsharpsonata for the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes on Saturday.

"Used to be I wouldn't even drive through Kentucky," Salzman said with a smile Wednesday morning in the Keeneland stable area. "But that's all in the past. We're here to win again. I've got some good memories of this track because of Xtra Heat; we went 2 for 2 with her here. Let's get some more."

For the record, Bsharpsonata is trained by Salzman's son, Tim, who has regularly dispatched his father to other destinations with the filly while tending to his 40-horse stable at Laurel Park. Bsharpsonata, bred and owned by Clover Leaf Farms, has been an overachiever of sorts, at least as far as the betting public is concerned. She has won 6 of 9 starts but has been favored just once - a pattern that won't change Saturday, since Proud Spell and Country Star surely will draw more action in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies entered in the $500,000 Ashland.

"All I know is she's a stone runner," said Salzman. "She's never run on the Polytrack, but she's run big on pretty much everything else - soft turf, firm turf, slop, fast tracks. Obviously we're hoping she'll like this, too."

Bsharpsonata will start from the middle of the pack in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland, which will line up this way from the rail: Absolutely Cindy, Orlando Mojica to ride; Little Belle, Rajiv Maragh; African Violet, Javier Castellano; Bsharpsonata, Eric Camacho; Proud Spell, Gabriel Saez; Country Star, Robby Albarado; and Life Is Sweet, Kent Desormeaux.

Moreso than in most years, the Ashland figures as an important prep for the Kentucky Oaks. Proud Spell and Country Star are regarded as the top two favorites for the May 2 filly classic, while Bsharpsonata is among a handful on the challenging fringe.

Hebert granted permission to ride

Jockey Tracy Hebert has been cleared to ride in Kentucky for the first time in more than seven years after agreeing to random drug tests for which he will be responsible for the costs.

Chief steward John Veitch said Hebert recently agreed to reimburse the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority for all costs associated with random urine and hair-follicle tests. Ordinarily, the racing authority incurs the costs of random tests, to which all racing participants are subject at any time.

Hebert has not ridden in Kentucky since November 2000 when Churchill Downs management abruptly ejected him and Francisco Torres, citing proprietary domain. Both jockeys have long histories of substance-abuse problems.

Hebert, 43, was a mainstay on the Kentucky circuit through the 1990s, when he was a four-time leading rider at Turfway Park.

Veitch said all Kentucky tracks, including Churchill, have agreed to permit Hebert to ride, providing he remains in good standing with the racing authority. Hebert, who most recently rode at Fair Grounds in his native Louisiana, also has been licensed in Texas and Oklahoma since returning from his latest rehabilitation.

Hebert could be active as soon as Sunday, said agent Julio Espinoza.

Kip Deville tops Mile probables

Many of the upcoming stakes at Keeneland are shaping up as terrific races, but not many could possibly be looking better than the $300,000 Maker's Mark Mile, which will be run next Friday, April 11. Kip Deville, the defending champion, is expected to face Cosmonaut and Shakis in a race that has been upgraded from a Grade 2 to a Grade 1 since last spring.

Kip Deville, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., will be making his first start since winning the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Mile at Monmouth Park. The 5-year-old Kip Deville shows a lengthy series of recent workouts at the Palm Meadows training facility in Florida, with his latest coming Monday in a swift 1:11 for six furlongs on the turf.

* Lenny Giardelli, who worked for nearly 40 years as a groom and assistant to trainer Merrill Scherer in Illinois, Kentucky, and elsewhere, died Tuesday in Florida of an apparent heart attack, according to Scherer. He was 67.