04/29/2002 11:00PM

Four have shot at rare Oaks-Derby double


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Ken McPeek fancies himself a racing historian, so when he was asked Tuesday morning if he knew the last time a trainer had won both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, he rattled it off like it was a $100 question on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"

"Ben Jones, 1952," he said confidently.

It has been 50 years since Jones won the Oaks with Real Delight and the Derby with Hill Gail, both owned by Calumet Farm. McPeek has a chance to erase that drought, as do trainers Bob Baffert, Bobby Frankel, and Saeed bin Suroor. All four trainers have runners in both the Oaks and the Derby this year.

McPeek trains the probable Derby favorite, Harlan's Holiday, as well as a highly regarded Oaks contender, Take Charge Lady. Frankel seemingly has the next best chance of sweeping both races. You, the Santa Anita Oaks winner, is 7-2 on the morning line in the Oaks, and Medaglia d'Oro will be among the top choices in the Derby. Both You and Medaglia d'Oro are owned by Ed Gann.

Baffert has Habibti in the Oaks and his newest acquisition, War Emblem, in the Derby. Both are owned by Prince Ahmed Salman's The Thoroughbred Corporation. Suroor, the trainer for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing Inc., has Imperial Gesture in the Oaks and Essence of Dubai in the Derby.

McPeek long has been fascinated by the history of racing, particularly the pedigrees of top horses. He can recite the pedigrees of horses, including Harlan's Holiday, going back three or four generations.

"I have a real passion for the game," he said.

Invisible Ink reappears

Invisible Ink, who finished second in the 2001 Kentucky Derby, returns to Churchill Downs in an optional claimer on Thursday that could serve as a prep for the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Invisible Ink will go favored against six others in the $52,000 race over 1 1/16 miles. The field includes Tribunal, who was third in the 2001 Santa Anita Handicap, and Fax a Freddy, who placed in stakes for Ohio-breds last year.

Invisible Ink has made one start this year, finishing second to He's a Knockout in a seven-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream Park on March 13.

"We knew seven-eighths wasn't his best distance, but it was a good starting point," Pletcher said. "He showed he came back in good shape."

Pletcher said his long-term goal for Invisible Ink is the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Greely looks for upset

Sligo Bay will be a longshot in Saturday's $400,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, but trainer Beau Greely has already pulled a surprise once in the race.

Two years ago, he won with Manndar, who was 5-1 in a field of eight.

This year, Sligo Bay will be a higher price against a field expected to include defending champion White Heart as well as Bach, Baptize, Beat Hollow, Climate, Hap, Quiet Resolve, Touch of the Blues, and With Anticipation.

"This is a Breeders' Cup-type race," Greely said.

A 4-year-old, Sligo Bay won the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park in his United States debut last May, but has not won in his last six starts, all important stakes.

Most recently, he was eighth in the Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita on April 6 after a three-month layoff, a loss Greely blames on himself.

"I didn't have him fit enough," Greely said. "Looking at the works I gave him, I was a little too soft."

Sligo Bay worked a half-mile on turf in 47.60 seconds on Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

"He really went well over it," Greely said. "I think he'll have to run his best race."

Tempera still on their mind

While Tom Albertrani remains focused on the main task at hand, winning the Kentucky Derby with Essence of Dubai and the Oaks with Imperial Gesture, he says it has been hard not to think about the death of Tempera, who was put down late Sunday evening after contracting laminitis.

"It's hard to believe she went from developing a temperature into something so serious in 24 hours," said Albertrani, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "Right now we're all a little down around here, especially those in the barn who have worked with her on a daily basis. All our spirits were lifted today when both Essence of Dubai and Imperial Gesture worked so well. We're just trying the best we can to put what happened behind us and look ahead to the rest of the week."

Stewart to take two shots

Trainer Dallas Stewart does not have a Derby contender this year, but he will play a strong hand in Saturday's Grade 1 Humana Distaff Handicap run on the Derby Day undercard.

It is expected that Stewart will send out both Nasty Storm and Sweet Nanette in the $200,000 race, run at seven furlongs.

Nasty Storm has won the last two graded stakes at Churchill Downs in which she has run, including the Churchill Downs Distaff Handicap last Nov. 13. She also won the Dogwood Handicap last spring. Nasty Storm has run just once this year, finishing fifth in the Madison Stakes at Keeneland.

"She was just short," Stewart said. "She acted like she needed the race and has trained very well since. She likes the racetrack here."

Stewart said Pat Day would ride Nasty Storm.

Sweet Nanette finished second in the Victoria Lass Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 16. It was her first start since finishing second in the La Troienne here last May 3.

"We've got to hope she's tight enough," said Stewart.

Others expected for the Humana Distaff are Away, City Fair, Gold Mover, Netherland, and Penny Marie.

* Flying Dash, who for a brief moment was considered for the Derby, is remaining on turf, and on Tuesday worked a strong five furlongs in 1:04 on the turf at Churchill Downs. Trainer Neil Drysdale said Flying Dash likely would make his next start in Hawthorne Derby on May 11.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen, David Grening, and Mike Welsch