04/30/2009 12:00AM

Cool Coal Man aims to wire Alysheba

Barbara D. Livingston
Macho Again is the highweight in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nick Zito's instructions to John Velazquez for Friday's Grade 3, $150,000 Alysheba Stakes will be quite simple: Go to the front with Cool Coal Man and improve your position.

"That's the plan," Zito said. "If he makes it, he makes it."

The Alysheba is one of five stakes on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.

In a race with several name horses such as Macho Again, Mambo in Seattle, and Dr. Pleasure, there isn't much early speed. Cool Coal Man tried to go gate to wire in the Grade 3 Excelsior but lost a stretch battle with Giant Moon in that 1 1/8-mile race. In the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba, he'll cut back a sixteenth of a mile. As a 2-year-old, Cool Coal Man won a first-level allowance here at 1 1/16 miles in pace-pressing fashion. Velazquez rides from post 4.

If someone tries to run with Cool Coal Man - perhaps Dr. Pleasure or Informed - then that could set things up for a closer like Macho Again, Ready Set, or Mambo in Seattle.

Macho Again is 2 for 3 at Churchill, including a victory in the 2008 Derby Trial. He enters this race off a one-length victory in the Gradeo2 New Orleans Handicap.

"I was very impressed with him. He came from way back in the mud and just ran them down," trainer Dallas Stewart said.

Macho Again will break from the rail under Robby Albarado. At 124 pounds, Macho Again is conceding four to six pounds to the field.

Mambo in Seattle has yet to flash the form he displayed as a 3-year-old when he won three straight races and lost a nose decision in the Travers. But trainer Neil Howard has seen improvement in the colt off an allowance loss at Keeneland and is not concerned about a potential lack of pace.

"That's okay, because I think he could be versatile," Howard said. "He's fairly fresh. When he's in form, I think he matches up with those horses."

Ready Set, last year's West Virginia Derby winner, makes his 4-year-old debut. Bullsbay (2 for 2) and Shift Power (3 for 3) are undefeated at Churchill.

American Turf: Stormalory on a roll

Stormalory, whose career has blossomed since being placed on the turf, and Bittel Road, seeking to resurrect his promising career after a detour to synthetic surfaces, will clash with two-time stakes winner Battle of Hastings in a deep edition of the Grade 3, $100,000 American Turf for 3-year-olds.

Stormalory comes off a late-running victory in the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, which marked his second win in three starts since moving to turf. That race was at the same 1 1/16-mile distance as the American Turf, and, with wet weather in the forecast, Stormalory could get the same turf conditions he had last time.

"He won on some ground with some give in it," trainer Bill Mott said Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs. "He shipped right over here after that race and has trained right along since then."

Bittel Road won two stakes last year on turf, including the Bourbon at Keeneland, and was second in the Generous at Hollywood Park. He then was given a chance to develop into a Kentucky Derby horse but finished out of the money in three straight races on synthetic surfaces, so trainer Todd Pletcher is putting him back on the grass.

"I believe he prefers turf," Pletcher said. "I am concerned about the wet weather, because I'm not sure he likes a softer course."

Battle of Hastings won the Baldwin and La Puente stakes at Santa Anita this year. He has a wicked late kick.

Of the seven others in the race, Skipadate has a chance to move forward after a rough trip when fourth behind Stormalory in the Transylvania.

- Jay Privman

Aegon: Chamberlain eyes rebound

On paper, it looks like Chamberlain Bridge's form might be slipping. Claimed for just $35,000 in March 2008, Chamberlain Bridge finished third or better in his next nine starts. In that span, he won four races, three of them stakes, and looked a lot like the most consistently fast turf sprinter in the Midwest. But Chamberlain Bridge finished ninth in the $75,000 Turf Dash at Tampa on March 14 and was third last out in the Shakertown at Keeneland, a race won by Heros Reward, a horse Chamberlain Bridge had beaten before.

But the on-paper projections do not jibe with the in-the-flesh reality, trainer Bret Calhoun said Wednesday.

"I think he's just as good now as he was last year," Calhoun said.

Chamberlain Bridge can prove Calhoun's case in the Grade 3, $100,000 Aegon Turf Sprint, a five-furlong grass race here Friday that drew nine entrants.

Chamberlain Bridge, 2 for 2 on the Churchill course, had a "disastrous" trip in the Tampa race, according to Calhoun. "I think he can rebound."

The Aegon marks the first start since October for 6-year-old Smart Enough, who was arguably the top turf sprinter in North America during 2007, when he won five stakes at five different racetracks.

Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey entered two horses, Cannonball and Accredit. Accredit has never raced on turf, but is 4 for 4 on wet dirt tracks. Cannonball, however, can win on grass. He finished strongly for second in front of Chamberlain Bridge in the Shakertown and has tried only a handful of turf sprints.

"We feel that's what he wants to do," trainer Wesley Ward said.

- Marcus Hersh

Egdewood: Test of temperament

Trainer Michael Matz said he won't know what to expect from Magical Affair in the paddock before the $100,000 Edgewood Stakes in front of a packed house.

A temperamental filly, she has challenged Matz with her behavior preceding many of her four races, fighting to get saddled at times and not wanting to even leave the walking ring before one race.

"But once she gets in the starting gate, she's all racehorse," he said.

She'll need to be all racehorse to win her third straight race Friday in the Edgewood, when she races 1 1/16 miles on turf against a full field that includes 6-5 morning-line favorite Laragh, winner of the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet and Jessamine Stakes last year as a juvenile.

Magical Affair is perfect in two starts on grass after twice running second on dirt. The Edgewood represents a class hike for her, but the makeup of the race suits her closing style. There are several front-runners in the lineup, led by Laragh, a headstrong filly who has set a blistering pace in some of her races, most notably when third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year.

Julien Leparoux will ride Magical Affair, a Giant's Causeway filly who sold for $1.55 million to Chiefswood Stables at auction two years ago.

Laragh finished last of five in the Grade 2 Comely, run in the slop at Aqueduct on April 11. That was her first start of the year, and she appears poised for a return to form with a return to turf, a surface on which she won the Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland last fall. Edgar Prado rides.

Abbott Hall and Complicity are other contenders in the one-mile Edgewood.

- Byron King