05/18/2006 11:00PM

Buddy Gil could be racing by meet's end


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Buddy Gil, the 2003 Santa Anita Derby winner who has been unraced for over 1 1/2 years, on Thursday breezed a half-mile in 50 seconds over a fast track at Churchill Downs, his third breeze since being sidelined with a recurring knee injury in the fall of 2004.

Formerly based in California, Buddy Gil has called Kentucky his home this spring. That is not the only thing new - Bill Mott now trains Buddy Gil, a 6-year-old gelding and a winner of 6 of 18 starts and $804,067. His previous trainer was Jeff Mullins.

Although based on the West Coast throughout much of his career, Buddy Gil is no stranger to Churchill Downs, having run sixth behind Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. But since finishing fourth in an allowance in September 2004, he hasn't raced anywhere, much less at Churchill Downs. Shortly after that race, his retirement was announced.

That plan is on hold. Mott's assistant in Kentucky, Kenny McCarthy, said Buddy Gil has done well in recent weeks, and that his much-troubled knee, which has required three surgeries, is holding up.

"We've got no plans for him yet," he said. "We usually take two months getting our horses back, so he might be looking at a race toward the end of the meet."

The Churchill Downs meet ends July 16.

Since winning the 2003 Santa Anita Derby, Buddy Gil has won once in nine tries, in an allowance race at Santa Anita in April 2004. He finished that year racing on turf, contending in two stakes and in an allowance.

Ermine works toward Acorn Stakes

Other notable horses hit the track Friday morning for routine breezes, led by Kentucky Oaks runner-up Ermine and 2005 Queen's Plate winner Wild Desert.

Ermine, prepping for the one-mile Acorn Stakes at Belmont June 10, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 over a fast main track. Robby Albarado, who rode her in the Oaks, was up for the work, trainer Ronny Werner said.

"She did it on her own, in hand," said Werner. "Sometimes after a tough race like the one she had they don't come back and work quite as good as they usually do, but I was very pleased."

Wild Desert worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 for trainer Rick Dutrow. In his last start, Wild Desert finished a close second to Gouldings Green in the Alysheba Stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day, his season debut.

Kelly's Landing, who set a track record of 1:07.59 in the six-furlong Aristides last year, also breezed Friday morning, covering a half-mile in 48.20 seconds. He is being aimed for the Aristides on June 3, trainer Eddie Kenneally said. Kelly's Landing ran second in a money allowance May 4, losing by a head to Exciting Metro after lugging in through the stretch.

Connections hit with two longshots in day

Owner Herman Van Den Broeck, trainer Ron Pellegrini, and apprentice jockey Randall Toups combined to surprise the betting public Thursday with pair of longshot winners.

Bright Sunshine, a maiden $15,000 claimer starting for the trio, lit the

toteboard in winning the fifth race by 8 3/4 lengths, paying $116.80 and setting up a $49,106 superfecta and $45,457 pick three that ended on the race. In the nightcap, they scored again with Prove Yourself, who got up in the final stride to win by a nose, paying $28.20.

Pellegrini said he "did okay" betting the two winners, his only two starters Thursday. "The more important thing is that the horses did what we always thought they could do," he said.

Pellegrini, 62, a trainer since the late 1990's and a former assistant to John Tammaro, said he felt confident in the two horses. "The funny part of it is that I thought both of them would win," he said.

Pellegrini said his two-win day Thursday was not the first time he had won multiple races on a card, but that it was the first time he had done it at a major track like Churchill.

* Veteran jockey Bill Troilo, away from riding since January after undergoing knee surgery, is back galloping horses and said he plans to return to riding by early June. He last rode at Turfway Park during the winter.