02/14/2005 12:00AM

Derby dream flickers for Pitnick


SAN MATEO, Calif. - In explaining why he hadn't nominated Stellar Magic to the Triple Crown series, trainer Brian Pitnick said, "I didn't want to put any pressure on the horse."

But after Stellar Magic's visually impressive victory in the at Bay Meadows on Saturday, Pitnick said, "Now he's putting pressure on me."

This is the kind of pressure Pitnick can get used to. His phone is ringing off the hook. Half the calls are congratulatory; the other half want to know what it would take to purchase the 3-year-old gelding.

"I'm not an 85-year-old millionaire," he said, referring to Harry Aleo, who has spurned all offers to purchase Lost in the Fog. "I have two kids and still rent my house, but my wife says to follow my heart."

Pitnick, 45, has been training for only 2 1/2 years, and is an attorney and an active member of the bar. Simply having one of his horses mentioned in the same sentence as the Kentucky Derby is a dream come true, and as excited as he is with his first stakes victory, Pitnick remains realistic.

"I'm pretty pragmatic," he said. "I'm a young trainer but a middle-aged lawyer. I don't want to ruin him by getting overly ambitious."

Stellar Magic was impressive Saturday in his first try around two turns. He relaxed nicely and finished strongly. Though he outfinished Texcess, who had won the $1 million Delta Jackpot, Stellar Magic has probably yet to meet a truly top-notch horse, and he got a perfect trip under jockey Dennis Carr.

"Things don't go as planned very often, but he got the ride we wanted and the trip we wanted," Pitnick said.

Stellar Magic will be pointed to the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on his home track here March 12. After that, Pitnick said he might consider the $500,000 WinStar Derby April 2 at Sunland Park. Should Stellar Magic win the El Camino, Pitnick said he would spend $6,000 to make a late Triple Crown nomination.

Stellar Magic has won 3 of his 4 career starts, and Pitnick said he thinks Stellar Magic's lone loss, which came at Santa Anita, came partly because he flipped his soft palate. Stellar Magic refused to run with a tongue tie and somehow got his tongue over his special bit during the race at Santa Anita. Pitnick began to use a tongue tie when he walked Stellar Magic around the barn and then when he galloped.

"Now he accepts it as part of his equipment," Pitnick said.

Ema Bovary doing fine

Ema Bovary, who strained ligaments in her left front ankle after a Saturday workout, was in good shape Sunday and was able to put some weight on the ankle, said trainer Larry Ross.

"It's unfortunate, but I'm glad it wasn't life-threatening," Ross said. "Now that I know she's all right, it's a feeling of relief."

A 6-year-old Chilean-bred mare, Ema Bovary is a multiple stakes winner and won 13 of 19 starts for earnings of $721,642. She will be sent to Kentucky to be bred, possibly as soon as two weeks, according to Ross.

Ross said he didn't know to whom owners Richard T. Beal and Lana Ramsey-Borg planned to send Ema Bovary, but said he got a call from Three Chimneys Farm, telling him that Smarty Jones was open for a booking.

* Danzig in the Rain, who won his maiden when sent north to Golden Gate Fields in December then faded badly against allowance foes at Santa Anita, comes north again and is the one to catch in Wednesday's feature, a $20,000 claimer for 4-year-olds at six furlongs.

Global Trade, Jones Tale, and Cronenbold will each look for his first win in another race Wednesday, a straight maiden race at six furlongs.

* Bay Meadows regular Kathy Smith, from nearby Belmont, won the Daily Racing Form's Winter of Discontent handicapping contest on the Public Handicapper.com web site.