04/16/2007 11:00PM

Derby in back of Sims's mind

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Phil Sims said he isn't necessarily gung-ho about running Joe Got Even in the Kentucky Derby, but the veteran trainer admits that may change, depending on what transpires Saturday at Keeneland in the final major Derby prep, the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes.

"We haven't spiked Derby fever yet," Sims said. "But if he runs really great Saturday, obviously we're going to seriously consider running in the Derby."

A victory in the $325,000 Lexington would automatically qualify the winner for the May 5 Derby, considering the winner's share of nearly $200,000 would lift him comfortably into the top 20 graded earners, the criteria used for Derby eligibility in case more than 20 horses are entered. Joe Got Even, owned by Joe Vaudo and Elizabeth Tobin of Massachusetts, was third in the Lane's End Stakes in his last race and figures as maybe the third or fourth choice in what Keeneland officials say is shaping up as a sizable field of 3-year-olds for the 1 1/16-mile Lexington.

Joe Got Even blew out for the Lexington on Monday, breezing a half-mile over the Keeneland Polytrack in 49.40 seconds, while the two possible favorites for the race, Belgravia and Forty Grams, both worked Tuesday at Keeneland. Belgravia, who will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the Hollywood Futurity in December, breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20, while Forty Grams, third as the odds-on favorite in the $600,000 WinStar Derby at Sunland Park last month, went a half-mile in 50.80 seconds.

Although born and raised in Kentucky, Sims downplayed the possibility of going to the Derby throughout the winter when he and his stable stayed put at Keeneland while bigger outfits went south.

"The colt really has to take us there by showing he belongs," he said. "I like his chances Saturday. I wouldn't trade him for any of the others in there."

Fernando Jara is the new jockey on Joe Got Even, replacing Miguel Mena, who rode the colt in his last four starts.

Entries for the Lexington were to be drawn Wednesday.

For You Reppo pops abscess

For You Reppo, who had to be scratched from Saturday's Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park because of a sore foot, popped an abscess in the foot Tuesday morning, trainer Helen Pitts said.

"He popped a big abscess, and I think he's got another one to go," Pitts said from Churchill Downs, where she is based.

Pitts said that if For You Reppo recovers quickly, he could run in a first-level allowance race early at the Churchill Downs meeting, which begins later this month, and then be pointed for a race like the Barbaro Stakes - formerly called the Sir Barton Stakes - or even the Preakness Stakes, both May 19 at Pimlico.

Regardless, Pitts said For You Reppo is not under consideration for either the Lexington Stakes this Saturday at Keeneland or the Kentucky Derby.

"We're just going to play it by ear," Pitts said.

Cryptoquip makes 2007 debut

Cryptoquip, a graded stakes winner at 3, will make her 4-year-old debut Thursday in the seventh race, a $58,000 second-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs on Polytrack.

Trainer Tom Proctor said he chose to give Cryptoquip time off after the filly finished sixth in the Falls City Handicap in late November.

"One month turned into two, and we just took our time getting her back," said Proctor, who trains the Ohio-bred filly for owner-breeder Elisabeth Alexander. "It looks like the time helped her."

Cryptoquip won two stakes last year, including the Grade 3 Arlington Park Breeders' Cup Oaks in August. Edgar Prado has the mount Thursday.

Danthebluegrassman in $10,000 claimer

The ninth race Thursday marks a homecoming of sorts for Danthebluegrassman, one of 12 older horses in for a $10,000 claiming tag. Danthebluegrassman, an 8-year-old Kentucky-bred horse by Pioneering, has not raced in Kentucky since November 2003, when he was soundly beaten in a Churchill Downs allowance race.

Danthebluegrassman, named for the late Dan Chandler of Lexington, became a Kentucky Derby footnote in 2002, when he was entered and then scratched by owner Mike Pegram and trainer Bob Baffert. Their entry precluded Windward Passage from making the field. Windward Passage also has faded into obscurity, having most recently competed in a $5,000 claiming race at Oaklawn Park.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman