04/12/2007 12:00AM

Currin working to develop stalking style for Stormello

Email

ARCADIA, Calif. - A fourth-place finish by Stormello in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31 has prompted trainer Bill Currin to try a late strategy change as he prepares the colt for the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

With a little more than three weeks remaining to the Kentucky Derby, Currin is trying to teach Stormello to accept being rated, and hopefully to develop a stalking style after running on or near the front in his nine-race career.

Thursday at Hollywood Park, Stormello breezed five furlongs in 1:01.80, a workout that was slow by the quick standards of most Southern California workouts. From Currin's perspective, the workout was satisfactory.

"I tried to do something entirely different," Currin said. "I let him creep off at the five-eighth pole. I wanted him to gallop out really strong."

Currin said he timed Stormello through an opening quarter mile in 26.40 seconds and three furlongs in 38.80 seconds. The final time was the 20th fastest of 38 recorded works at the distance.

Owned by Currin and Al Eisman, Stormello has yet to win in two starts this year. He finished a game second to Scat Daddy in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 3. Last year, Stormello won the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity and Grade 2 Norfolk Breeders' Cup Stakes, and was fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.

Currin said Stormello's trip from California to Florida for the Florida Derby "took 40 hours" because of delays in transporting the colt. By traveling to Florida twice and bypassing an easier spot in the Santa Anita Derby last weekend Currin left himself open to criticism that he was overtaxing Stormello.

"Guess what?" he said. "I should be criticized. I'm going to the Kentucky Derby with the intent of winning."

Earlier in the week, Currin watched Stormello gallop and said he thought the colt's best chance over 1 1/4 miles was to not be in front.

"I'm putting him through long gallops and trying some different things to slow him down at the beginning," Currin said about Stormello earlier this week. "From a 1 to a 10, he's still a 10. To me, it's half-full, and not half-empty."

Neuilly favored in '07 debut

Saturday's $75,000 Santa Lucia Handicap at Santa Anita is restricted to fillies and mares that have not won a stakes at a mile or longer in 2007. Only two of the eight entrants won a stakes last year - Neuilly and Political Web.

Neuilly, trained by Bobby Frankel, is likely to go favored in her first start of 2007. A 5-year-old mare owned by TNT Stud, Neuilly won the restricted Adoration Handicap at Del Mar last August and finished fourth in the Grade 2 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap in October.

"She had a little foot problem," Frankel said, explaining her absence.

Neuilly has won 4 of 7 starts in a two-year career, which began in Brazil.

"We'll see how she does on Saturday," Frankel said. "She's not a superstar, but she's okay. It would be nice to get another stakes win out of her."

Political Web has not started since finishing last of eight in the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap here Feb. 10. Trained by Julio Canani, Political Web won the Torrey Pines Stakes for 3-year-old fillies last September at Del Mar.

Canani trains three of the eight entrants in the Santa Lucia, including Kris' Sis and Freakin Streakin.

Kris' Sis finished second in the Grade 2 El Encino Stakes in January and was last of six in the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes on Feb. 11. She will race without blinkers for the first time in her seven-race career.

Freakin Streakin is coupled with Vanguarda, since both are owned by Mercedes Stable. Both were beaten in Grade 1 stakes earlier this year; Vanguarda finished fourth in the Santa Margarita Handicap in March, while Freakin Streakin was fourth in the Santa Maria Handicap in February. Vanguarda is trained by Darrell Vienna.

Price Tag recovers from cramps

Price Tag, the winner of the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Hollywood Park last fall, will miss a scheduled start in the $200,000 Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday after a bout with stomach cramps, Frankel said.

Frankel said Price Tag has recovered and is being considered for two races over a mile on turf - the $100,000 Wilshire Handicap at Hollywood Park on April 25 or the $150,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile at Churchill Downs on May 5.

Owned by Juddmonte Farms, Price Tag has made one start this year, winning an allowance race at Santa Anita on March 16.