05/08/2006 12:00AM

Derby trio to skip Preakness


ELMONT, N.Y. - Bluegrass Cat, Steppenwolfer, and Jazil - the second-, third-, and co-fourth-place finishers in the Kentucky Derby - will all forego the Preakness Stakes to concentrate on the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 10.

The trainers of all three horses are based in New York and feel that running their horses back in two weeks at Pimlico is not the best thing to do.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Bluegrass Cat, said the only horse he has run back in the Preakness out of the Derby was Impeachment, who finished third in both races in 2000. Pletcher said that Impeachment's late-running style was conducive to doing that because he only ran for the last three furlongs of the Derby. Bluegrass Cat, on the other hand, gets into his races earlier than did Impeachment.

"I don't really like rushing them back in two weeks," Pletcher said. "I don't see the point."

Pletcher also confirmed that Sunriver, who was excluded from the Derby field for lack of sufficient graded stakes earnings, would run next in the Peter Pan here on May 20. Pletcher said he does not want to run Sunriver in a Triple Crown race off a seven-week layoff.

Danny Peitz, the trainer of Steppenwolfer, said running back in two weeks was the biggest reason that he plans to skip the Preakness and wait for the Belmont.

"I'm just thinking the shorter race, the tighter turns, the speed-favoring nature of Pimlico, it just seems like it makes the most sense," said Peitz, whose horse is a one-run closer. "More than anything, though, it's the two weeks."

Peitz said that Steppenwolfer stepped on himself in his stall at Churchill on Monday morning and cut his right front hoof, but he added that it wasn't a big deal. Peitz said Steppenwolfer was due to van to New York from Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday.

Initially, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he would consider Jazil for the Preakness. But on Monday, McLaughlin said he would skip the race and aim for the Belmont. McLaughlin will be represented in the Preakness with Gotham winner and Lexington Stakes runner-up Like Now.

"It's quick back and didn't seem like the thing to do," McLaughlin said on why Jazil would skip the Preakness. "He's a very nice horse; we want to look after him and pick the right spot. The Belmont may not be the right spot, either, but we'll give it some time and consider it."

Showing Up may try the turf

Though trainer Barclay Tagg said he was thrilled with how well Showing Up ran in the Derby, he is thinking about running him next on the grass. Showing Up, who finished sixth in the Derby, is owned by the same people who own Derby winner Barbaro, who would likely be pointed for some of the same races as Showing Up.

Tagg said he is contemplating running Showing Up in the $1 million Colonial Turf Cup on June 24. The Turf Cup is a prep for the $1 million Virginia Derby on July 15. Showing Up is by the sire Strategic Mission, who was a multiple graded stakes winner on the turf.

"He's all turf," Tagg said of Showing Up. "I'll probably try him in a breeze on turf here and then take him down to Colonial for that mile-and-an-eighth race. If he doesn't run any good, we'll scratch [the Virginia Derby] and wait for the Jim Dandy."

Showing Up, who won his first three starts, raced with Barbaro until the top of the stretch. He was still third at the eighth pole before tiring in his first start beyond 1 1/16 miles.

He was beaten only 3 1/2 lengths for second.

"Even Bobby Frankel said to me 'If you'd had another race you would have been second,' " Tagg said. "He hadn't run a mile and an eighth yet until Saturday. It was a lot to ask of him. I had never seen a Derby that power-packed."

On Sunday, Tagg won a race for Roy and Gretchen Jackson, the couple behind Lael Stables, when Klepto Cat won a seven-furlong maiden race at Belmont.

Ward a permanent New York fixture

With slot machines seemingly on the horizon for New York racing, trainer John Ward wants to make sure he's here when the purses start to grow. Thus, he has shipped 16 horses into Belmont Park for the spring meet, and he hopes to call Barn 4 home permanently. Next week, Ward will ship an additional 20 horses to Saratoga.

"This will be year-round," Ward said Monday morning. "When slots come in, this is going to be the place to be. Plus, the winter racing is going to fit our program."

Ward said that in the future he and owner John Oxley would be racing a lot more homebreds by stallions such as Monarchos, Sky Mesa, and Hero's Tribute.

Among the horses Ward has at Belmont are Strong Contender and Minister's Bid. Strong Contender, third in the Blue Grass, is being pointed to the Peter Pan with a possible start in the Belmont Stakes thereafter.

Minister's Bid is an exciting 3-year-old prospect as well. A son of Deputy Minister, Minister's Bid won a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race by 8 3/4 lengths on April 13, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

Other notable runners Ward will have in New York this summer are Little Money Down and For All We Know.

Henny Hughes back on work tab

The multiple-stakes-winning Henny Hughes breezed three furlongs in 37.10 seconds at Belmont Monday morning, his first timed breeze since finishing second in last October's Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Henny Hughes won the Tremont and Grade 2 Saratoga Special before finishing second in the Hopeful, Champagne, and BC Juvenile. He wintered in Dubai before returning to Kiaran McLaughlin's barn last month. McLaughlin trained Henny Hughes for the Breeders' Cup, after the colt made his first five starts for Patrick Biancone.

McLaughlin said he would not look to run Henny Hughes much before the end of the Belmont meet or early at Saratoga. McLaughlin's major goal this summer with Henny Hughes is the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga on Aug. 26.

"I'm very pleased with him," McLaughlin said. "He looks better now than when we had him in the Breeders' Cup."