04/10/2009 12:00AM

Early-season baby races are Ward's specialty


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When it comes to 2-year-old racing at this time of the season, almost nobody does it better than trainer Wesley Ward.

Ward has dominated juvenile racing here at Gulfstream Park thus far this spring, not only winning all three baby races but finishing first and second in two of those events. Ward also won the first two 2-year-old races decided at the Keeneland meet before finishing second behind Steve Asmussen-trained juveniles on Thursday and Friday.

"That Asmussen is tough," Ward said after watching his Princess Andrea chase home Asmussen's filly Malawi in Friday's opener in Lexington, Ky., from the comfort of the simulcast room at Gulfstream.

Ward said he has 25 2-year-olds in training, split almost evenly between Gulfstream and Keeneland.

"I broke them all myself at a couple of different farms in the area near Gulfstream Park," said Ward, a former jockey. "I try to see which ones are precocious and focus on those at this time of year. Those who look like they'll need to go a distance we back up on for a while."

Ward said he will continue to be busy over the next several weeks, not only at Gulfstream and Keeneland but when racing switches over to Calder and Churchill Downs later this month.

"I should have a horse for just about every race both here and in Kentucky for a while," said Ward, who relocated his family within a stone's throw of the Gulfstream stable gate a couple of years ago.

Ward also said the big horse in his barn, stakes winner Notonthe-samepage, remains on target for the Grade 3 Derby Trial, to be run opening day at Churchill Downs on April 25. Notonthesamepage earned a 113 Beyer Speed Figure for his one-sided victory in the Spectacular Bid Stakes here on opening day but was found to have bled following his disappointing performance in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth eight weeks later.

"He's doing great," Ward said of Notonthesamepage. "We just shipped him north so he can have his final work for the Derby Trial in Kentucky."

Criticism preps for La Prevoyante

The Palm Meadows training facility looked like a ghost town on Friday with only a dozen horses working over the main track during the course of the morning. Among them was Criticism, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01.38 under the watchful eye of trainer Tom Albertrani. Criticism captured the Grade 3 The Very One before finishing third as the odds-on favorite in the Grade 3 Orchid here on March 22.

Albertrani is planning to run Criticism in Calder's Grade 2 La Prevoyante on April 25. The 12-furlong La Prevoyante has traditionally been decided during December but was advanced to the opening weekend of the meet for the first time this season. Albertrani has already posted five stakes wins during the meet.

Calder will begin its 39th season of racing on Friday, April 24, with the first of two consecutive meets to run through Jan. 2, 2010.

Changes this year include a new post time, 12:40 p.m. Eastern, and a live racing schedule of Thursday through Sunday. The La Prevoyante is one of several alterations made to the stakes schedule. The meet will again be highlighted by the July 11 Summit of Speed, which includes the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap.

Backstretch workers' advocate dies

The local racing community lost a good friend and tireless worker when Gerald Pitrelli died following a brief illness on Wednesday.

Pitrelli, who would have celebrated his 64th birthday later this week, served as the manager of the His Place Ministries track chaplaincy office at Gulfstream Park. He joined Pastor Tom LaPointe's staff at His Place Ministries in 1990 and helped establish the track chaplaincy office at both Gulfstream and Calder, where he spearheaded the drug and alcohol abuse programs. He also helped establish many other social services for employees at both tracks, including the food pantry, half way houses and both computer and English proficiency courses.

"I never met a man more dedicated to helping those on the backside in all my years of racing," said Gulfstream Park president Bill Murphy.

A memorial service will be held 6 p.m. Monday at His Place Ministries Church, located at 7090 Pines Blvd. in Hollywood.