02/28/2007 12:00AM

Flint in no hurry with Unbridled Express

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The way veteran trainer Bernie Flint talked last year - and the way his horse ran - a racing fan might have expected that Unbridled Express would wind up on the Triple Crown Trail this winter and spring - and he still might.

Unbridled Express hasn't raced since last Sept. 4, when he finished third behind Circular Quay and Scat Daddy in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, but Unbridled Express finally has returned to the racetrack. He posted his first published work last week at Fair Grounds, going an easy three furlongs in 37.80 seconds on Saturday.

"We've had him back over a month and a half," Flint said Wednesday morning.

Unbridled Express, an Unbridled's Song colt, got an early start to his career, finishing third in his debut June 25 at Churchill. July 9, he won his maiden by four lengths over a familiar name - Street Sense. Then, a break until the Hopeful, Unbridled Express's final start of the year.

"We wanted to turn him out and let him grow," said Flint. "Those horses that go on and compete a lot as juveniles tend not to go on at 3."

Unbridled Express won't take as long to get back to race shape as a typical horse away from the races six months, Flint said. The colt has been at Kesmarc Farm in Kentucky, keeping fit with a regular regimen of swimming, then a combination of swimming and jogging. "He didn't lose that much," Flint said.

Flint didn't rule out a run at the Kentucky Derby, but said he won't push to make the race, either.

"For me, it's not a must," he said. "We gave him more time than we planned to, especially if we were going to make the Derby. It's just going to depend on how he's doing. It's give and take. All we need to do is keep him sound, and he's got a great big career ahead of him if we do the right thing."

Unbridled Express remains eligible for a first-level allowance race, but Flint downplayed the notion of bringing the horse back in a soft spot. "I'm not looking for allowance races," he said. "That's never been our goal."

Mr. Sulu hopes rain holds off

Mr. Sulu is entered in a turf race at Fair Grounds, so there must be rain in the New Orleans forecast. At age 9, Mr. Sulu's chances to start in races anywhere are dwindling, and his favorite place to race always has seemed like the Fair Grounds turf course, but because of a wet winter, Mr. Sulu has gotten to start just once during the three months of this meet, finishing third in the Dec. 3 Louisiana Champions Day Turf, a race he has owned the last several years. But while rain is forecast through Thursday night around New Orleans, a dry Friday and Saturday morning still might give Mr. Sulu a chance to start in the Dixie Poker Ace, a one-mile turf race scheduled as Saturday's feature.

Mr. Sulu was one of 12 entered Monday in the Dixie Poker Ace, which is for Louisiana-breds at one mile. Mr. Sulu finished second in the Dixie Poker Ace last season, when the Fair Grounds meet had to be moved to Louisiana Downs, and he looks like one of the main contenders again this season.