03/26/2004 12:00AM

Derby prospects bypass Aventura


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Kentucky Derby hopefuls Read the Footnotes, Eddington, Swingforthefences, and Farnum Alley are among the 19 3-year-olds nominated to next Saturday's Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream Park. But barring any last-minute change of plans, none of those horses will start in the race despite its $250,000 purse and attractive spot on the calendar, four weeks out from the big dance.

One big reason the Aventura is being shunned by Derby candidates is because the race is not graded. Money earned in graded stakes is the first priority when it comes to determining eligibility if the Kentucky Derby attracts more than a full field of 20 entrants.

"We're staying away from the Aventura because of its ungraded status," said Rick Violette, who trains Swingforthefences. "He's got only $25,000 in graded money at the moment and we'd feel foolish if he were to run very impressively but couldn't get into the Derby because he didn't have enough graded earnings."

Racing secretary Dave Bailey said trainer Anthony Reinstedler has also advised him he's passing the Aventura with Farnum Alley in lieu of the Grade 2 Illinois Derby the same afternoon for similar reasons.

"It's very frustrating, and if we don't get the race graded for next year I might change its spot on the stakes schedule and move it up earlier in the meet," said Bailey.

Last year the Aventura was able to attract the exciting Dynever, who as the odds-on favorite rallied to defeat Supah Blitz. But trainer Christophe Clement was never considering the Kentucky Derby for Dynever and thus the Aventura's ungraded status became a moot point. Supah Blitz did go on to the Derby and finished 13th.

"This will only be the third running of the Aventura and it's nearly impossible to get a race graded so quickly, even with a horse like Dynever winning last year," said Bailey. "Hopefully, somebody will come out of here Saturday and go on to have a big season, and then perhaps the committee will give us a Grade 3 rating for 2005."

Violette said he is considering both the Illinois Derby and Wood for Swingforthefences, with the Wood the most likely choice.

"I'm leaning towards the Wood because it gives us an extra week, he's already won over the track, and the logistics are just easier," said Violette. "This way I can ship him once instead of twice if we are fortunate enough to go on to the Derby, and he can also go back into his old stall at Aqueduct. He was a little rambunctious before the Tampa Derby and I can control that situation better from out of his old stall."

Violette also sent out his top Derby candidate Read the Footnotes to work a half-mile in 48.60 seconds at Palm Meadows on Friday. It was his first work since finishing fourth as the favorite in the Florida Derby.

"It was just an easy work to let him blow off some steam," said Violette. "Right now our plans remain the same: to train up to the Derby. I haven't mapped out his complete training schedule yet. I'll see how he's doing as we get closer to the race, but I'll likely give him one prep race-type breeze of seven furlongs or a mile two to three weeks before we ship."

Dynever returns in Gulf Park 'Cap

Dynever will launch his 2004 campaign in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, which shares top billing on next Saturday's card with the Aventura.

Dynever has not started since finishing third, beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Pleasantly Perfect, in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He has been working steadily for Clement at Payson Park, where he turned in a bullet five-furlong work of 1:03.20 earlier this week.

Among the other notable contenders for the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap are Seattle Fitz, Formal Attire, Indy Dancer, Jackpot, and possibly Newfoundland.

Fumante makes U.S. debut

Trainer Ken McPeek was in Dubai this weekend to run the Brazilian-bred Hard Buck in Saturday's Dubai Sheema Classic. Sunday, he will send out another of his Brazilian imports, the 5-year-old mare Fumante, as one of the key contenders in the $38,000 allowance feature here at six furlongs.

Fumante won 3 of 5 starts in her native Brazil, her victories coming by an average margin of more than 10 lengths. She has not started since Oct. 11 but is training extremely well for her U.S. debut and catches a field loaded with speed.

Parisian Deputy, another late-running type, should also benefit from the expected hot pace. She is coming off her best effort since last spring when she was a late-running second behind the loose-on-the-lead Cutoffs under a $50,000 claiming tag.

Cutoffs is among the other seven horses in the field but she figures to get early pressure from Hong Kong Charlie, Vibs, and perhaps Marquee Kelly.