05/20/2008 11:00PM

Excuses for Preakness trio


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - In hindsight, the Preakness Stakes was not the ideal race for California-based longshots Gayego, Yankee Bravo, or Tres Borrachos. But who knows? Under different conditions, maybe they would have fared better than up the track.

Gayego (11th), Yankee Bravo (10th), and Tres Borrachos (ninth) returned to Los Angeles on Sunday, on the same flight out of Baltimore. All three are stabled at Hollywood Park; all three returned from Pimlico with alibis other than Big Brown.

Trainer Paulo Lobo said Gayego was scoped after the race and "came back with a lot of mucus." Lobo initially thought Gayego was sick. He was not.

"I was surprised [Sunday] that he didn't have a fever; I was expecting a fever because of the amount of mucus." Lobo now suspects Gayego may have been suffering from allergies.

After he finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby, Gayego was being considered for a sprint campaign beginning with the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes on June 7 at Belmont Park. Those plans are off after Gayego set the pace and faltered as the 9-1 second betting choice in the Preakness.

"He's going to rest now," Lobo said. "We have no plans; we'll play it by ear."

Yankee Bravo did not fare much better. Winner of the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields and fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, Yankee Bravo appeared to be overmatched at 23-1 in the Preakness. Afterward, jockey Alex Solis told trainer Paddy Gallagher that Yankee Bravo did not handle the dirt footing.

"Alex said he made a run from the five-sixteenth to the three-sixteenths, and then maybe felt like he couldn't handle the track," Gallagher said. There are no immediate plans. "He's home now, we'll give him time to recover from the trip."

Options include the Grade 2 Swaps at nine furlongs on the Hollywood main track July 12, the Grade 3 Cinema on grass June 21, or the 3-year-old turf series at Del Mar.

"He handles grass and synthetic, so we'll see what comes up," Gallagher said.

Tres Borrachos, at 43-1, was the unluckiest California runner. He also was the most fortunate because he amazingly came out of the Preakness in relatively good shape. A front-runner, Tres Borrachos went to his nose at the start, broke dead last, checked repeatedly early, and never reached contention.

"He had some minor cuts, but nothing serious," trainer Beau Greely said. "The good news is that came back sound, he looks well, and didn't lose any weight. I still think we could have been second or third."

Greely said Tres Borrachos will go right back into training and target the $350,000 Swaps.

"That's definitely going to be our next goal, and we could even prep him in a one-other-than before then," Greely said.

Tres Borrachos has won just 1 of 8, but his third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby on dirt at Oaklawn stamped him as an improving 3-year-old.

"His numbers went up on dirt, but he runs well on synthetic," Greely said.

It is not unusual. Synthetic surfaces often produce speed figures lower than dirt. Tres Borrachos won a maiden race on the Hollywood Cushion Track last fall.

Two Step Salsa will stretch out

While the California 3-year-old division remains suspect, it includes a fast sprinter that will try carrying his speed two turns next month. Two Step Salsa overcame a slow start and an inside post Sunday to win the Grade 3 Laz Barrera by three lengths. He will run next in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 15. Can he go 1 1/16 miles?

"He will go a mile and an eighth," trainer Julio Canani stated. "He's got Seattle Slew on the bottom."

Canani said the 27-day break from the Barrera to the Affirmed is ideal for Two Step Salsa, a son of Petionville with 3 wins from 4 starts.

Strategy hurt Salute the Sarge

Salute the Sarge, fifth as the 2-1 Barrera favorite, was compromised by strategy, trainer Eric Guillot said.

"We took him out of his element, and they ran him off his feet," Guillot said. "If we would have taken him back, he would have been a clear second, but I don't ever go out there to run second. If you run for second, you're the first one to lose."

Salute the Sarge, a 4-for-9 graded stakes winner, will aim for the Carry Back Stakes on July 12 at Calder.

"Two reasons," Guillot said. "There will be few shippers, and it's three-quarters."

He said Salute the Sarge will retire at the end of his 3-year-campaign and become a stallion in Louisiana.

Diamond Diva works quickly for stakes

A bullet six-furlong workout Monday by Gamely Stakes contender Diamond Diva was out of character. Trainer Jim Cassidy rarely works horses fast, and he admits that the 1:11 workout Monday at Santa Anita was not what he wanted.

"Thank goodness she came back fine, but it's a lot more than I normally do," Cassidy said.

What would have been good?

"For me, it would have been 1:13 and change."

Diamond Diva won both her U.S. starts in solid fashion and steps up in company Monday when she takes on Rutherienne and Precious Kitten in the $250,000 Gamely at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Lavender Sky and Green Lyons are the only other confirmed starters.

Ever a Friend drills for Shoemaker

Conversely, the fast six-furlong workout Monday by Shoemaker Mile probable Ever a Friend was just right. He worked 1:11.40 on Monday at Hollywood, the fastest of the day.

"He just did it so easy," trainer Mike Mitchell said.

Tyler Baze was aboard for the workout and rides Ever a Friend in the $250,000 Shoemaker on Monday.

Ever a Friend and Daytona are the leading contenders; others include Hyperbaric, Rebellion, El Roblar, Get Funky, and Thousand Words.