04/23/2003 11:00PM

Expect 'Emblem' to improve


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - The ease with which Private Emblem won his 4-year-old debut last month suggests he has an exciting season ahead of him, one that will get interesting Saturday when he meets California shipper Bluesthestandard in the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile at Lone Star Park.

The race will be Private Emblem's first stakes start of the year after he romped by four lengths in a $65,000 optional claimer at Oaklawn Park on March 29.

Private Emblem was returning from a six-month layoff for that one-mile race. He stalked the pace early, angled outside of horses on the backstretch, and toyed with his rivals in the lane, covering the distance in 1:37.60.

Private Emblem earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

"It was everything we hoped for," said Steve Asmussen, who trains Private Emblem for the Grand Prairie-based partnership of James Cassels and Bob Zollars. "For him to come back from an injury and run as good as he did speaks extremely well for him. He's very classy."

Private Emblem won four stakes last year, including the Grade 2, Arkansas Derby.

Last September, Private Emblem came out of a sixth-place finish in the Grade 2 Super Derby with a bone chip in his ankle. It was removed during the layoff, and he resumed serious training at Fair Grounds.

When a comeback race in New Orleans did not fill for him, Asmussen shipped Private Emblem to Oaklawn. The trainer looks for his horse to move forward Saturday.

"We feel like naturally his second race into his campaign, he's a stronger horse," said Asmussen. "We've got one race in him that went very well, he's trained very nicely since then, and we're going in with a fresh, strong Private Emblem."

Getting quicker at 6?

Bluesthestandard, a 6-year-old gelding who has climbed the class ladder big time since trainer Ted H. West claimed him for $50,000 in December, has employed front-running tactics since switching to his new barn. But there was never a plan to change his style.

West expected to see Bluesthestandard come from off the pace as usual when he made his first start for his new connections Feb. 17. But trouble led to a different kind of trip.

"He was bumped the first quarter- mile, and I think he got mad and just took off," said West. "He went 43 and change for the half and kept going."

And going. Bluesthestandard, who last year was racing for a claiming price of $10,000, has won his two most recent starts from either on or close to the pace, including the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup on March 29.

West has enjoyed having Bluesthestandard, whom he trains for Jeffrey Sengara.

"Mentally, he's very aggressive, very competitive, which is what you would expect from a horse that has amassed his record," he said. "He's a tough guy."

Overall, Bluesthestandard has won 13 races from 20 starts and $320,410.

Wiseman's Ferry to Churchill

Wiseman's Ferry, who won the Grade 3, $500,000 Lone Star Derby last year and was expected for the Texas Mile, is now being tentatively pointed for the Grade 2, $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap on May 3, said his trainer, Niall O'Callaghan.

Wiseman's Ferry had been a go for the Texas Mile, but O'Callaghan decided against flying the colt to Lone Star from Kentucky on Wednesday morning after Wiseman's Ferry did not clean up his feed following a workout.

O'Callaghan said either Wiseman's Ferry or Keats could run here in the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 26.