01/23/2004 12:00AM

Frisky Spider could go on fast track


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Bob Durso had been pointing undefeated 3-year-old Frisky Spider toward the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 14. The colt's sire, Frisk Me Now, won that race at odds of 105-1 in 1997.

But now Durso is having a change of heart: If Frisky Spider shows Durso enough in Sunday's fifth race, the trainer might consider passing the Hutcheson for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth the same afternoon. Sunday's second-level allowance dash drew a field of seven and marks the 2004 debut of the promising Stolen Time.

"After he won his last start, I thought about just pointing him right for the Hutcheson," Durso said of Frisky Spider. "It would really be great to win that race again after having his father do it seven years ago. But he needs some more seasoning, so I decided to give him another start. This way I could be ready for either option, the Hutcheson or the Fountain of Youth, depending on how he runs Sunday."

Frisky Spider set a contested pace from a deep rail, then dug in gamely to post a half-length victory in an entry-level allowance at seven furlongs here on Jan. 7.

"He'll probably have to win and finish up strong for me to consider the Fountain of Youth," Durso said of Sunday's race. "If not, we can still run in the Hutcheson. This race will be a little tougher test than the last, but that's what we're here for this winter - to find out just how good these 3-year-olds really are."

Stolen Time owns a victory over Second of June in Calder's What a Pleasure Stakes, and he finished a troubled third behind the undefeated Sir Oscar and graded-stakes winner Wynn Dot Comma going seven furlongs in his 2-year-old finale. Stolen Time is making his first start since being purchased privately and turned over to trainer Bill Mott in late November.

Live at Gulfstream, it's Pesci on Pesci

Joe Pesci the actor was in the Gulfstream press box Friday morning to talk about Pesci the horse, a 4-year-old filly he owns in partnership with Mark Giordano and trainer Wesley Ward. She is scheduled to compete in Saturday's Sunshine Millions Distaff.

"When I was first approached about a horse being named after me, I said yes, but that the horse better be able to run," Pesci said. "I didn't want any nags carrying my name. Eventually, Wesley Ward came up to me and said he had a filly who was a real runner, and guaranteed she would win the first time. So I signed some papers to let them use my name.

"Then I got to thinking about the whole thing," Pesci continued, "and decided if a horse was going to have my name I'd like to own a piece of her, and that's how I wound up becoming a partner in this filly."

Keeping tabs on Pesci during the Sunshine Millions Distaff should be no problem. Jockey Mike Smith will be wearing a set of silks designed specifically for the Oscar-winning owner: all black with the letters "JP" formed by the smoke from a giant cigar on the back.

Pesci said attending the races and now owning a horse is a good way to relax and a diversion from the grind of making motion pictures.

"Making movies is hard work," Pesci said. "I made a lot of movies all at once, so I decided to take a break. I haven't done any since 'Lethal Weapon 4' four years ago - although I am working on several projects at the moment, including a gangster movie and a romantic comedy in which I might team up once again with Marisa Tomei."

Asked if he'd rather win another Oscar or an Eclipse Award, the 60-year-old Pesci didn't hesitate to answer.

"At this point in my life, I'd rather have an Eclipse."

Buckle Down Ben back with Klesaris

Buckle Down Ben left trainer Steve Klesaris's barn after being sold privately for a reported seven figures shortly after his second-place finish in the 2001 Holy Bull Stakes. Three years later, Buckle Down Ben is back under the Klesaris shed and ready to launch his 2004 campaign after working a mile in 1:45.40 here Friday.

Buckle Down Ben was sidelined after he finished third in an allowance in October 2001, and did not run again until resurfacing for a $35,000 claiming tag last October at Keeneland. Buckle Down Ben eventually won back-to-back races against $14,000 and $18,000 claiming rivals at Hawthorne for trainer Charles Vinci in December before being claimed and returned to Klesaris.

"The last time I had seen the horse was a year after we'd sold him, when he was on a farm in Ocala recuperating from suspensory injuries," said Klesaris. "And after looking at him, I thought he'd never make it back to the races again. Whoever brought him back was very patient and did a good job.

"He looks like his old self only a little older," the trainer said. "Having him back in the barn is a sentimental thing for all of us. It's not about business or making money. We'll just try to be as good to him as he was to us, and if it reaches a point I think it's not safe to run him anymore, he'll be retired and guaranteed a good life on the farm."

Klesaris has another talented 3-year-old on his hands this winter in Papa Sal, who won his debut going six furlongs last Saturday. A son of Maria's Mon, Papa Sal is owned by the Puglisi Stables.

"I think he's got a lot of ability, and we'll stretch him out a furlong at a time for now," Klesaris said. "We'll probably run out of time to make the big races here, but the Gotham at a mile could be a possibility if he progresses as we hope."