05/12/2003 11:00PM

Howard's stock livens stakes barn


BALTIMORE - Wood shavings, wrapped in plastic, are piled high at one end. Golf carts awaiting passengers sit at the other end. Some potted plants have been put around the perimeter. The stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course is all dressed up, with no horses.

Not until the Neil Howard-trained duo of Midway Road and Mineshaft arrived Tuesday afternoon from Kentucky was there a single horse in residence at the Pimlico stakes barn, which the week of the Preakness Stakes usually is teeming with runners awaiting the weekend's races. Not this year. With the Pimlico Special having been moved back six days to Friday, sharing the same card with the Black-Eyed Susan, mornings the early part of this week have been strangely quiet.

Midway Road, who runs in Saturday's Preakness, and Mineshaft, who is in the Pimlico Special, will be at opposite ends of the tote board in their respective races. Mineshaft, one of the best older horses in the country, is the probable favorite in the Pimlico Special. Midway Road will be one of the longshots in the Preakness.

Midway Road has won three times in seven starts. He most recently was an 11 3/4-length winner in a second-level allowance at Keeneland going 1 1/16 miles April 24. He has never beaten horses of this caliber. Still, Will Farish - who both bred and owns Midway Road - and Howard think the Jade Hunter colt deserves a chance.

"Mr. Farish felt that even as tough as this race is, that if the colt was doing well - and he is - he'd like to take a shot," Howard said. "You can count on one hand the number of times we've taken a shot like this. It's a little out of character for us. It's not our M.O. But I didn't have any real hard and fast reservations, other than it's a jump we'd not normally make.

"We always thought he had ability. And Mr. Farish is the type of person that if you say you have reservations, the subject is dropped and doesn't come up again. Taking everything into consideration, we've decided to run. His work on Monday was excellent."

Midway Road worked five furlongs in 1:01.20, then was put on a plane Tuesday with Mineshaft.

They arrived at a quiet barn, one that will get busier as the week progresses. For now, though, they had the place all to themselves.

A family affair

Trainer Gary Capuano will run Cherokee's Boy in the Preakness, but his brother Dale, another trainer, will have plenty of action in other stakes races at Pimlico this week.

Dale sends out the unbeaten filly Pompamento - whom he also bred and owns - in Thursday's Miss Preakness Stakes. He has another 3-year-old filly, Grace Bay, in Friday's Black-Eyed Susan. And he will race the 3-year-old Prospect Thunder Saturday, in either the Sir Barton Stakes on the dirt or the Woodlawn Stakes on the turf.

"It's 50-50 which race Prospect Thunder will go in," Capuano said Tuesday morning from Laurel Race Course, where his horses are based. "The Woodlawn doesn't look as tough as the Sir Barton. He's never run on turf, though. But I don't want to get a bad post in the Sir Barton. So I think I'll enter him in both races - they'll let you do that with stakes here - and see which one looks best."

Prospect Thunder, by Thunder Rumble, was claimed by Capuano for $25,000 out of a winning race against maiden claiming company. He then came back and won an entry-level allowance race.

Grace Bay has won twice in her last three starts, most recently winning the Caesar's Wish Stakes for Maryland-bred fillies April 26.

"She's going to like a mile and an eighth," Capuano said, referring to the distance of the Black-Eyed Susan.

Roar Emotion ready

Roar Emotion, winner of last year's Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes, blew out three furlongs in 35.81 seconds Tuesday morning over Belmont Park's training track in preparation for Friday's Grade 2, $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

The work was the best of 13 at the distance.

"She worked awesome," trainer Carlos Martin said. "She's doing sensational. She's doing everything right. Hopefully, she'll run her A race."

The Black-Eyed Susan will be only Roar Emotion's second start of the year and first since finishing second as the 4-5 favorite to Cyber Secret in the Grade 3 Cicada at Aqueduct March 22. Martin had thought about running her back in the Comely Stakes, but was fearful of meeting champion Storm Flag Flying, who was beaten by Cyber Secret in that race.

"We caught the best Cyber Secret, maybe even better than when she beat [Storm Flag Flying]," Martin said. "The day she beat us, our filly ran well. Going seven-eighths with an inside post she took a lot of dirt in her face. We trained her to run well but it would have meant running in [1:21] to beat her and you weren't going to do that in her first start of the year."

Roar Emotion will be reunited with jockey John Velazquez in the Black-Eyed Susan. Velazquez rode her in all three starts last year. Richard Migliore was aboard for the Cicada.

A field of 10 was drawn for the Black-Eyed Susan, led by Santa Catarina, who finished second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks two weeks ago.

- additional reporting by David Grening