01/05/2004 1:00AM

'Footnotes' starts out slowly


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Read the Footnotes took his first small steps as a 3-year-old on the road to what trainer Rick Violette hopes will eventually become a journey to the Kentucky Derby when he breezed an easy three furlongs in 37.60 seconds at Palm Meadows on Sunday morning.

With regular exercise rider Morna McDowall aboard, Read the Footnotes broke off at the quarter pole and cruised around to the seven-eighths pole before galloping out a half-mile around the turn in 50. It was his first recorded work since he won the Grade 2 Remsen by 3 3/4 lengths Nov. 29.

"It was just a little something to get us started," said Violette, who trains Read the Footnotes for the Klaravich Stable. "And it's really a lot of fun to get him back into training again."

Read the Footnotes ended 2003 as one of the leading members of his generation after winning 4 of 5 starts last season, including both the Remsen and Grade 3 Nashua.

"I'm in a good spot with this horse because I have the luxury of time on my side," said Violette. "I'm not planning on running him until the Fountain of Youth, which gives me six weeks to have him up to a race. And since that's not our major goal, it's not necessary to have him 100 percent fit for the Fountain of Youth either. Naturally, we'd love to win it but the major purpose of his first start will be to get him back in a racing mode and use it as a substantial building block towards our ultimate goal, which is obviously the Kentucky Derby."

Man From Wicklow prepping for Turf

While Read the Footnotes is just starting to get back in shape, stablemate Man From Wicklow is sitting on ready for his 2004 debut after working six furlongs in 1:16 a bit earlier on Sunday.

Man From Wicklow has not started since straining his XYZ ligaments when second in the Grade 3 Elkhorn at Keeneland on April 23. He won the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap in his 2003 debut.

"He really worked well," said Violette, who also owns Man From Wicklow. "He usually doesn't do anything faster than 13-second eighths but he galloped out a mile in 1:43 this morning and I could run him tomorrow if I had to."

Violette will instead wait another three weeks before running Man From Wicklow in the Sunshine Millions Turf here on Jan. 24.

Jerry Bailey has been Man From Wicklow's regular rider since they teamed up to win the 2002 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder. Unfortunately, Violette will be forced to search for a new jockey for the Sunshine Millions Turf, which will be run at Gulfstream, with Bailey already committed to ride in a pair of Sunshine Million races at Santa Anita that same afternoon.

Chapel Royal, Ashado to begin year sprinting

Unlike Violette, trainer Todd Pletcher has yet to work his top 2-year-olds, Chapel Royal and Ashado, since they arrived at Palm Meadows last month.

Chapel Royal was the leader of the 2-year-old division through late August before finishing second in the Grade 1 Hopeful and Champagne stakes. He concluded his campaign by finishing a tiring third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Ashado won 4 of her 6 starts at 2, including the Grade 1 Spinaway and Grade 2 Demoiselle and Schuylerville stakes. She is generally regarded as the second best filly in her division behind only the undefeated Halfbridled, who beat her by 2 1/2 lengths in the BC Juvenile Fillies.

"They're both here and are both galloping regularly," Pletcher said. "I'll probably start both horses back sprinting, Ashado in the Forward Gal and Chapel Royal in the Swale."

Pletcher said no definite decision has been made regarding Chapel Royal's itinerary beyond the Swale.

"He's probably going to be better sprinting, and at this point I'd have to say he's not on the Triple Crown trail," said Pletcher. "In fact, at the moment it seems most of our better 3-year-old colts are sprint or middle distance horses, and I have nothing for the Holy Bull or Fountain of Youth."

Heckle is one of those better 3-year-olds. The winner of the Grade 3 Tremont is among the nominees for Saturday's Spectacular Bid Stakes but will not make the race.

"I stopped on him after the Sanford to take a little flake out of his front ankle and then I missed a little time with him because he was coughing a bit," Pletcher said. "He's just not ready for the Spectacular Bid."

The Hutcheson, a seven-furlong race on Feb. 14, is a possibility, according to Pletcher.

Harmony Lodge heads First Lady probables

Pletcher will be in action this weekend with Harmony Lodge, who is back to defend her title in Sunday's Grade 3 First Lady Handicap. Harmony Lodge captured 5 of 8 starts, including the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap, last season, but has not raced since winning the Gallant Bloom on Oct. 5.

"I gave her a little break from training after she won the Gallant Bloom, but she runs well fresh and ran well here all three times last winter," he said

Among Harmony Lodge's chief rivals in the six-furlong First Lady will be House Party, who also won five times, including the Grade 1 Prioress, in 2003 as well as the Old Hat Stakes at Gulfstream.

Pletcher also has high hopes for Tomahawk, who dominated a good field of second-level allowance sprinters on Sunday. The start was only the second in this country for the 4-year-old Tomahawk, a $2.5 million yearling purchase who is owned by D. Morgan Firestone. His first United States appearance came for trainer Aiden O'Brien in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, where he finished eighth after breaking poorly.

"He did all of his racing on grass in Europe, but we're trying to see if he's got a future on the dirt," said Pletcher. "That's why he was sent over here this year."

Saratoga County may try stakes

Saturday's Spectacular Bid figures to come up a short field. Among the leading candidates for the six-furlong, Grade 3 sprint is Saratoga County, an easy 9 1/4-length winner of his debut at Saratoga and a troubled second behind Smokume under first-level allowance conditions in his only other start.

Saratoga County worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 under jockey Chris DeCarlo on Sunday morning at Palm Meadows. Afterward, trainer George Weaver said he is seriously considering the Spectacular Bid for the lightly raced Saratoga County.

"He worked well so I'm going to take a long look at the prospective lineup for the Spectacular Bid and see how he fits," said Weaver. "I had pointed him for the Cowdin during the fall but he developed a minor problem and I had to back off him a little bit, which is why he has not started since late September."

* Second of June, who will be one of the main contenders in the Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 17, shipped across town from Calder to gallop over the track and school in the paddock on Monday morning. Trainer Bill Cesare said Second of June, who upset Silver Wagon while winning Calder's What a Pleasure Stakes last month, will have his final major prep for the Holy Bull at Calder later this week.