01/24/2008 12:00AM

Bushwacker 'at top of his game' for Dash


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Bill Currin still believes he should have left south Florida last winter with a win photo from Gulfstream Park. But since he didn't, the California-based trainer has come back for another try.

A year ago, Currin shipped Stormello from Southern California and just missed winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes, dropping a nose decision to Scat Daddy.

"Every picture I see, I still won it," said Currin, who shipped Stormello back to finish fourth in the Florida Derby. "They just wouldn't let me have the picture."

This year, Currin has shipped two horses to Gulfstream Park for Saturday's Sunshine Millions - Bushwacker in the $300,000 Sprint and Memorette in the $500,000 Distaff.

This will be the third straight year Bushwacker has shipped to Gulfstream. In 2005, he finished eighth to Lost in the Fog in the Sunshine Millions Dash. Last year, he finished third to Bordonaro in the Sunshine Millions Sprint.

Bushwacker enters Saturday's Sprint off a victory in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park, beating In Summation, who came back to win the Palos Verdes last Monday.

"I think he's at the top of his game, and if he's at the very top of his game, I may even go to Dubai with him," said Currin, whose horse breaks from post 11. "But first things first. This is a tough race primarily because of his post. I would trade [posts] with anybody. But he's got a lot of speed, so hopefully we can get something done."

Memorette will be making the final start of her career in the Sunshine Millions Distaff. Though Memorette had most of her success on turf, Currin believes the mare's best race came on dirt in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes in 2005, when she was beaten three-quarters of a length by Sharp Lisa.

"Kent Desormeaux owes me that victory," Currin said. "She made the lead coming off the turf, and he drops the whip late. Kent's whipping with the reins and his hands, but Sharp Lisa got her."

Currin said Memorette will be retired and bred to Empire Maker.

Fountain of Youth prep?

An intriguing field of six 3-year-olds was entered in a second-level allowance at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, a race that could produce a starter or two for the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 24.

Cool Coal Man, trained by Nick Zito, will attempt to bounce back from a last-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club last November at Churchill Downs. Zito said Cool Coal Man was "too rank" in that race and jockey Rafael Bejarano couldn't control him.

Zito mentioned that Cool Coal Man is a nervous horse, which is one reason he scratched him out of the Pasco Stakes last weekend at Tampa Bay Downs.

"I didn't want to run there seven-eighths," Zito said. "I'm not building on anything. I want to see how good these horses are."

Ready Set, trained by Michael Matz, looked good winning a first-level allowance race at Calder in his first start wearing blinkers.

"He just needs to get his head straight, he's got a lot of ability," Matz said.

Legacy Thief, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, attempts to stretch out after winning a six-furlong, first-level allowance race in the slop here on Jan. 5. Wonder Mon went 2 for 2 at Laurel for trainer Gary Capuano and now faces better. Trust N Dustan finished third in the Remsen, while Golden Spikes stretches out after finishing fourth in the Hutcheson.

Brass Hat arrives for Donn

Brass Hat returned to the scene of his most important victory when arriving at Gulftream Park on Wednesday to begin final preparations for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap on Feb. 2.

Brass Hat splashed through the slop to register an impressive 4 3/4-length victory in the 2006 Donn Handicap. He has not started since finishing second, beaten less than a length by A. P. Arrow, in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap on Nov. 23.

Brass Hat is scheduled to work Saturday, following the arrival of his trainer, William "Buff" Bradley, who is due in town the previous day.

"He's done very well since the Clark, he's trained forwardly for this race, and hopefully the results will be the same as the last time we were here," Bradley said by phone from Kentucky on Thursday. "We're following the same schedule that worked so well here two years ago. Get him down early and let him get acclimated to the weather and the surroundings. I'm not sure who will work him yet, but his regular rider, Willie Martinez, will be back aboard for the race."

Nominations for the 1 1/8-mile Donn were released Thursday, with Brass Hat one of 18 older horses made eligible for the race. Other leading candidates include Daaher, A. P. Arrow, Einstein, and Fairbanks.

"I know it's going to be a tough race," Bradley said. "But I feel like my horse is doing well, he runs good fresh, and I'm very confident he'll put in a big effort."

Trainer Allen Jerkens said he's also contemplating running a couple of his older horses in the Donn - Wood Be Willing and Merchant Marine. Both will be decided outsiders if they run.

"It's a Grade 1 with a $500,000 purse, and if you even get a check it's a big home run," Jerkens said.

The Donn will share top billing on the Feb. 2 card with the Grade 2 Swale. The 6 1/2-furlong fixture for 3-year-olds attracted 44 nominations, including recent Eclipse Award winner War Pass, who is not expected to run.

Brooklyn Boy set for U.S. stakes debut

Only seven horses worked over a sloppy Gulfstream Park strip Thursday morning, among them were Jerkens's Brooklyn Boy, who went a half-mile in 48.20 seconds. Brooklyn Boy will make his U.S. stakes debut in Sunday's Grade 3 Appleton Handicap.

Brooklyn Boy, a son of Gone West, began his career in France before being purchased privately by Joseph Allen and transferred to Jerkens's barn during the fall. The 4-year-old is coming off an impressive 2 1/2-length entry-level allowance win at Calder on Jan. 2.

"He surprised me the way he won last time," Jerkens said. "The owner kept telling me how good he was, but prior to that race I didn't really think so. It's a big step going right into a stakes, but I prefer the distance for him and he surprised me anyway in his last start, so he might do anything this time."

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch