05/12/2008 12:00AM

Casino Drive eager to meet Big Brown


ELMONT, N.Y. - Casino Drive did his job. Now, his connections are hoping Big Brown does his.

Those associated with Casino Drive are rooting for Big Brown to win Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico to set the stage for a potential Triple Crown clash in the June 7 Belmont Stakes. Of course, Casino Drive will be trying for a Triple Crown of sorts as well as he attempts to give the mare Better Than Honour her third consecutive Belmont Stakes winner. Better Than Honour is the dam of Jazil and Rags to Riches, winners of the 2006 and 2007 Belmont, respectively.

Casino Drive, a son of Mineshaft, established himself as the likely second choice behind Big Brown in the Belmont, with a convincing 5 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont. Casino Drive, owned by Hidetoshi Yamamoto, covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.87 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 101.

It was a huge effort when you consider that Casino Drive was making just the second start of his life and first since Feb. 23. After having to do a 60-day quarantine in Japan, Casino Drive made a trans-Atlantic trip from Japan on April 30. With just one five-furlong work at Belmont, Casino Drive put in a superlative effort in the Peter Pan.

On Monday, Nobutaka Tada, the racing director for Yamamoto, said Casino Drive came out of the race "very well. He looks really good. After the race, his [breathing] was real good, like it was easy for him."

Tada said he was very pleased with the way Kent Desormeaux rode Casino Drive in the Peter Pan.

"He can go to the front, but he got the horse to relax," Tada said. "It was the perfect race as a prep."

Tada understands that, if Big Brown wins Saturday's Preakness, Casino Drive will need a new rider for the Belmont. But Tada said a Big Brown-Casino Drive showdown would be good for the sport.

"It's a pity to lose our jockey, but from a racing point of view it would be good for the fans, and that's more important," Tada said.

While it has been assumed that Yutaka Take would come to the U.S. from Japan to ride Casino Drive in the Belmont, Tada said Monday that no decision has been made on that front. Tada said he has already been approached by many North American jockey agents seeking the mount. An American jockey is a consideration, Tada said.

"We'll leave it open for now," Tada said.

Tada said Spark Candle, who finished sixth in the Peter Pan, would not run in the Belmont.

Bustin Stones to miss Met Mile

A fever that forced Bustin Stones to miss about a week of training will keep the undefeated horse from running in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 26, his connections said over the weekend.

After initially toying with the idea of running in the True North Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, owner Roddy Valente and trainer Bruce Levine have decided to give the colt a brief freshening before returning for a three-race campaign that will conclude with the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

"You can't do everything," Levine said Monday morning. "Everything goes to the fall anyway. You could win six Grade 1s and if somebody comes along and wins the Breeders' Cup, they get [the championship]. The Breeders' Cup is all that seems to matter."

Bustin Stones will likely return to the races during the Saratoga meet - Valente lives near Saratoga - in either the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on July 26 or the Grade 1 Forego on Aug. 30. As a New York-bred, Bustin Stones is also eligible for the $80,000 John Morrissey on July 31.

Bustin Stones could have his final Breeders' Cup prep in either the $400,000 Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 27 or the $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita the same day. The allure of the Ancient Title is that it is held at the same place where the Breeders' Cup is being held and would give Bustin Stones the chance to run over a synthetic surface.

Bustin Stones is 6 for 6 in his career and this year has won the Grade 1 Carter and Grade 2 General George handicaps.

Lieutenant Ron out until July

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Lieutenant Ron, undefeated in two starts, would most likely not make it back to the races before the Dwyer Stakes in July. Lieutenant Ron was forced to miss Saturday's Peter Pan with what so far has been diagnosed as a bruised foot.

"We'll give him a couple of weeks of walking because he's such a nice horse," McLaughlin said. "We'll proceed with caution. We'll look at him again in a week or so."

Sinus infection shelves Circular Quay

Trainer Todd Pletcher entered A.oP. Arrow in Friday's Grade 1 Pimlico Special as a replacement for Circular Quay, who was forced to miss the race due to a sinus infection.

Pletcher said Circular Quay had to have a hole drilled in his sinus cavity.

"We thought he progressed well where he could still make the race, but we ran out of time," said Pletcher, who will now point the New Orleans Handicap winner to the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 14. "We're not excited about waiting around to run against Curlin."

The Roundhouse, a 3-year-old half-brother to Circular Quay who placed in two graded stakes last summer at Saratoga, worked three furlongs in 38.27 seconds Sunday at Belmont. It was only his second work of the year. He worked three furlongs at Palm Beach Downs in March, but popped a splint in subsequent training.

In other news regarding Pletcher-trained horses, Panty Raid, the multiple-surface stakes winner, will return to the turf for the Grade 2, $150,000 Sheepshead Bay Handicap here May 24. On Sunday, she worked five furlongs in 1:02.06 over a soft turf where three sets of dogs, orange cones used to keep the inside paths from being used, were up.

* Benny the Bull worked four furlongs in 48.32 seconds Sunday morning at Aqueduct. It was his first timed move since he won the Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 29. His connections, the IEAH Stable and trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., are targeting the True North for him on June 7, Belmont Stakes Day.

* Apprentice rider Sebastian Morales was suspended for 10 days for careless riding during the running of Saturday's last race. Morales was aboard Navajo Spirit, who ducked out in upper stretch and bumped into East End Boy, unseating jockey Luca Panici. Panici was uninjured, and Morales will continue to ride pending an appeal.