03/22/2007 12:00AM

Frequent flyer Derby prospects


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Notional and Stormello are not only two of the most talented 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail, they are also the most traveled. At least, they will be after they complete the journey that will bring them from California to south Florida for next Saturday's $1 million Florida Derby.

Stormello has already made the cross country trip once, embarking from a long and eventful plane ride to finish a game second, a nose behind Scat Daddy, in the Grade 3 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Notional's first trip took him from Southern California to Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where he won the Grade 3 Risen Star Stakes at the expense of a field that included fellow long-distance traveler Circular Quay.

Trainer Doug O'Neill penciled in the Grade 1 Florida Derby for Notional almost immediately after his big performance in the Risen Star, passing what would have been the more logical race, the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 10.

"He's the kind of colt who benefits from having extra spacing between races, so time-wise the Florida Derby works out perfectly for him," O'Neill said by phone from his Hollywood Park base on Thursday. "Obviously, he's already shown he can handle the traveling. I thought he ran very well at the Fair Grounds, that was a big time win, and Robby rode him, which is a good thing for us because it looks like he's going to ride him again down there in Florida."

O'Neill was referring to Robby Albarado, who guided Notional to a 2 1/4-length victory over Imawildandcrazyguy despite breaking from post 12 in the Risen Star.

The Florida Derby will also provide Notional with a chance to avenge his most recent setback, which came at the hands of Stormello in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity in the last start at 2 for both horses. O'Neill added blinkers to Notional following the Futurity, and the equipment change has produced impressive wins not only in the Risen Star but also Santa Anita's Grade 2 San Rafael in his 3-year-old debut.

"Blinkers seems to have made a big difference," said O'Neill, who trains Notional for owner J. Paul Reddam. "He's always had a lot of talent, but the blinkers make him more versatile and enables the rider to put him wherever they want him."

O'Neill said Notional will have his final work for the Florida Derby on Saturday before joining Stormello on a flight to Florida on Tuesday.

Bejarano will ride Imawildandcrazyguy

Trainer Bill Kaplan has secured the services of Rafael Bejarano to ride Imawildandcrazyguy in the Florida Derby. Bejarano replaces Fernando Jara, who will be in Dubai on Florida Derby Day.

Imawildandcrazyguy was a rail-skimming fourth in the Louisiana Derby following his second-place finish behind Notional in the Risen Star.

"The plan from the beginning was to run in the two races in Louisiana and then keep him home for the Florida Derby," said Kaplan. "I think he'll run very well in here, and we figure with the graded money he's already earned a fourth-place finish might even be enough to get him into the Kentucky Derby."

Kaplan also reported that the status of the 3-year-old Drums of Thunder remains day to day. Drums of Thunder is suffering from what Kaplan described as a "little infection," which he hopes will subside in time for him to return to the track within a week.

"If I can get him back in a week we still may be able to make one of the Derby preps on the 14th," said Kaplan.

Drums of Thunder finished second behind Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes but was sixth in the Fountain of Youth.

Pay Wright will await Keeneland's Beaumont

Pay Wright, who would have been among the favorites for Sunday's $150,000 Herecomesthebride Stakes on the turf, will pass the race, according to trainer George Weaver.

Instead, Weaver has now earmarked Keeneland's Grade 2 Beaumont Stakes over the Polytrack on April 12 for her next start. Pay Wright is coming off a second-place finish in Santa Anita's La Habra Stakes on March 4.

* Corinthian, game winner of the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 3, worked seven furlongs in 1:26 at the Palm Meadows training center on Thursday. Corinthian is expected to make his next start in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap on April 7.

* Silver Knockers, who suffered her first setback in three career starts when she finished second behind the undefeated Forever Together in the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes on March 10, also worked Thursday at Palm Meadows, where she breezed a half-mile in 49.00 seconds for trainer Nick Zito.