10/05/2006 11:00PM

Horse Greeley faces critical test in Norfolk


ARCADIA, Calif. -The autumn coronation of as the top juvenile colt in California does not take place until after the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes on Sunday.

And it will not happen unless Horse Greeley wins his first start around two turns against the deepest field of 2-year-olds assembled in California this year.

The $250,000 Norfolk includes 2-for-2 Principle Secret, brilliant winner of the Grade 2 Best Pal; Malt Magic, a romping maiden winner at two turns; graded stakes-placed Stormello; Spot the Diplomat, a two-time California-bred stakes winner; and Roman Commander, who overcome an impossible trip to win the Barretts Juvenile.

The 1 1/16-mile Norfolk will determine the California delegation for the Breeder's Cup Juvenile. Horse Greeley proved his class winning the seven-furlong, Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, but can he stay two turns?

"He should be as good or better going long," trainer Richard Mandella said. "I've breezed him around two turns, schooled him behind horses, and got dirt in his face. We've given him all the experience we can in the morning. Now it's just a matter of whether he can really do it [run long]."

Owned by breeders Ray and Martha Parfet, Horse Greeley finished second in his debut, won his second start by four lengths, and followed by winning Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity with a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. Sired by Mr. Greeley, Horse Greeley was produced by Chile Chatte; she won by 12 lengths in her first start around two turns.

Victor Espinoza rides Horse Greeley, whose autumn works hint at further improvement and includes a 58.60-second bullet work Tuesday.

"I've never seen [a work] much better," Mandella said.

Principle Secret has not raced since Aug. 13, when she scored a fast victory, worth a 95 Beyer, in the Grade 2 Best Pal at 6 1/2 furlongs. Sired by Sea of Secrets, Principle Secret bobbled badly at the start, rolled up to press the pace, and won clear by three lengths.

"Most horses that go to their knees like he did won't run," trainer Chris Paasch said. "He didn't even grab a quarter."

Paasch skipped the Del Mar Futurity because he already had Prime Ruler in that race, and aimed Principle Secret for a two-turn fall campaign.

Despite having been sired by Sea of Secrets, Paasch and owner Charles Cono said they believe Principle Secret will run long based on a bullet six-furlong workout in 1:13 on Sept. 23 on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park.

Paasch said Principle Secret broke off at the 7 1/2 pole, and worked to the three-sixteenths.

"He actually went two turns that day (1:13), and to do it as easily as he did, on that track, I am confident he will do two turns."

Paasch said a Breeders' Cup decision on Principle Secret will be made after the Norfolk. Meanwhile, his 2-for-3 colt Prime Ruler is headed to New York for the Champagne Stakes. Alex Solis rides Principle Secret.

The only Norfolk starter with two-turn experience beyond a sprint is Malt Magic, whose 9 1/2-length maiden-race triumph Sept. 4 at Del Mar earned an 87 Beyer and stamped him as a potential stakes colt.

"I don't know what was behind him that day, but I like the way he did it," trainer Bob Baffert said.

The one-mile race was the third career start for Malt Magic.

"One thing about him is we know he can go two turns, and that is such a big test," Baffert said.

The issue facing Malt Magic is class; Malt Magic may have answered that in morning works.

Malt Magic worked six furlongs Monday in 1:11, in company with older graded stakes winner Preachinatthebar.

"That's a good sign," Baffert said, adding that that Malt Magic previously worked in company with 2-year-old stakes filly Point Ashley. David Flores rides Malt Magic.

The upsetter could be Roman Commander, who was stopped cold at the quarter pole in the Barretts Juvenile on the five-eighths mile track at Fairplex Park, but somehow re-rallied to a half-length win at 30-1 in the 6 1/2-furlong race.

"I might be in tough with two monsters in there," Roman Commander's trainer, Gary Stute said, "but I know my horse can go two turns."

Also in the field are Unusual Suspect, the entry of Lucky Thirteen and Swiss Ski, and Sunshine Ridge.