05/08/2008 12:00AM

Executive Fleet beats heart problem


ELMONT, N.Y. - In the summer of 2005, Linda Rice had high hopes for a 2-year-old she had purchased at auction for a reasonable $70,000. But a few months later, that same horse lay in a New Jersey equine hospital getting treated for a rare heart ailment.

Doctors at that clinic thought it unlikely that Executive Fleet would ever make it to the races. A month ago, Executive Fleet came within a half-length of winning the Grade 1 Carter Handicap. On Saturday, Executive Fleet could be favored to win the Grade 3, $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park.

To date, Executive Fleet has won 6 of 13 starts for Team Solaris Stable and Rice. His last three starts have been his most impressive, with two allowance wins preceding the Carter. The horse has Rice thinking of the prestigious Metropolitan Handicap on May 26.

The Met Mile comes nearly three years after Rice bought the son of Northern Afleet at the Ocala Breeders Sales auction. Rice had the son of Northern Afleet ready to run in fall 2005, when he got a virus. Rice sent him to the Mid Atlantic Equine Medical Center in Ringoes, N.J., where he was diagnosed with an abscess pressing against the heart.

"I set him to Mid Atlantic Equine where Dr. Patty Doyle and Dr. [Rodney] Belgrave laid him down twice and drained the abscess off his heart before it ruined his heart," Rice said. "It looked like he'd never race. At the time, they thought it was unlikely."

But Rice, with the blessing of owner Bob Carr, decided to try to get the horse to the races. She ran him at Delaware Park for maiden $25,000, a race he won by one length. The horse wouldn't win again till October 2007. That race started a streak where he won 4 of 7 starts.

"I told them when I sent him down there when he was sick he's just a really nice colt and I just loved him," Rice said. "He's got a great personality, he's really smart, nice to be around. I thought he had a lot of talent and they fell in love with him, too. I sent a horse down to their clinic the other day and they asked me, when is he running next?"

Lieutenant Ron injures foot

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will be on pins and needles until he finds out definitely the extent of the injury that knocked Lieutenant Ron out of Saturday's Peter Pan Stakes. As of Thursday, it appeared to be just a bruised foot.

Lieutenant Ron, a son of Graeme Hall, would most likely have been favored in the Peter Pan off two rousing victories in which he earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures.

"I haven't been excited about a horse like this in a long time," said McLaughlin, trainer of 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor.

McLaughlin said he noticed something amiss with Lieutenant Ron Wednesday morning after the colt galloped.

"He galloped great, pulled up, got to the barn, and he was a little funny," McLaughlin said. "We have to proceed cautiously and figure it out."

McLaughlin said X-rays and an ultrasound came back negative.

"It might just be a bruised foot," McLaughlin said, hopefully.

Sir Greeley retired

Sir Greeley, a multiple Grade 3 stakes winner, has been retired due to injury, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

"He came back from a gallop real bad," Jerkens said. "There was a deterioration of the bone at the base of his cannonbone. They said it would be dangerous to go on."

Sir Greeley is at owner Thomas Walsh's farm in New York. Sir Greeley, a 6-year-old gelded son of Mr. Greeley, had 9 wins and 8 seconds from 27 starts and earned $594,251. He won his last start, the Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap in March. He also won last year's Grade 3 Westchester and was beaten a neck in the Grade 1 Carter in 2006.

"Lucky we didn't lose him for maiden $25,000 or he would have been good for somebody else," said Jerkens, who ran him for that tag in his third start.

Benny the Bull to True North

Benny the Bull, who won the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 29, is being pointed to the True North Handicap here June 7, owner Michael Iavarone said Thursday.

"It's incredible how he came out of the Dubai race," said Iavarone, who heads the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Inc. "We're ready for another big race."

Benny the Bull, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., has won his last three starts, including the Grade 1 De Francis Dash last November at Laurel, the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream, and the Golden Shaheen.

The True North is run the same day as the Belmont Stakes when Iavarone, his partners, and Dutrow hope to be going for the Triple Crown with Big Brown.

My Princess Jess takes Gaviola

My Princess Jess ($16.80) came off the rail in upper stretch, then rallied by pacesetter Raw Silk en route to a 1 1/4-length victory over 3-5 shot Namaste's Wish in the $78,900 Gaviola Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on turf.

My Princess Jess, a daughter of Stormy Atlantic, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.22. She is owned by Georgica Stable, trained by Robert Barbara, and was ridden by Cornelio Velasquez.