03/10/2009 11:00PM

IEAH's Derby hopes are riding on Patena


If horses racing under the same silks actually thought like a team and talked like athletes, Patena would be quoted this week saying, "It's all on me now."

Yes, if Team IEAH Stables is to win the Kentucky Derby for the second year in a row, Patena is probably going to be the horse to do it. A week ago, the IEAH-owned filly Stardom Bound still was considered a leading Derby hopeful, but when Stardom Bound struggled to beat seemingly inferior competition Saturday in the Santa Anita Oaks, plans to beat the boys were back-burnered.

"Patena would be our top prospect now," said IEAH co-president Michael Iavarone. "With Stardom Bound, we're focused on the Oaks."

Patena either will take IEAH one step closer to a return trip to the Derby, or essentially take the high-profile ownership group out of the 2009 Derby running when he starts Saturday in the $600,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds.

Patena is one of 10 horses in the 1 1/16-mile derby, one of six stakes on Saturday's 12-race card. Several 3-year-olds should take betting action Saturday, with Friesan Fire likely to be favored after winning the first two 3-year-old dirt-route stakes this winter in New Orleans. Patena, Flying Pegaus, Giant Oak, and California shipper Papa Clem will also have their supporters.

IEAH purchased a majority share in Patena from John G. Sikura, Glenn Sikura, and Domenic DiLalla after the colt finished second to Friesan Fire in the Jan. 10 Lecomte Stakes. Patena was transferred from the Fair Grounds barn of Josie Carroll to the Gulfstream Park base of Rick Dutrow, Big Brown's trainer, with a clear goal - another date on the first Saturday in May.

"I think everyone wants to get to the Derby," Iavarone said. "It's like the Super Bowl for us."

Patena has raced just five times in his career, the Lecomte his only start on dirt. In the Display Stakes in December at Woodbine, he won by a head over the filly Hooh Why, who finished two noses behind Stardom Bound on Saturday. In the Lecomte, Patena raced several lengths behind a slow pace and finished well, gaining on Friesan Fire through the short stretch run used in one-mile races at Fair Grounds. After contracting what Iavarone described as "a little bit of a cough" shipping from Louisiana to Florida, Patena hit the work tab on Feb. 1, and has breezed five times for Saturday's start.

Asked how Patena's preparations were coming along, Iavarone quoted one of his trainer's signature phrases: "We're good, babe."

While Patena has come along steadily, the colt does not make a powerful impression with his appearance or his morning work, according to Iavarone.

"He's not a spectacular looking horse by any stretch of the imagination," Iavarone said. "He certainly doesn't look like Big Brown.

"He's not a great work horse, either," Iavarone continued. "That's the one thing that's pretty evident. I think the first time he impressed us was the last time he worked."

That was on Monday, when Patena, working in company, drilled five furlongs in a bullet 59.40 seconds. He ships Thursday to Fair Grounds - the weight of IEAH's Kentucky Derby hopes on his back. Not that the horse can feel it.

Luck of the draw? Not for Stall

What kind of karmic infraction did Al Stall commit?

When the New Orleans Handicap was drawn Monday, 14 names had passed the entry box. The first pill that was shaken out by racing officials was No. 13, and the Stall-trained Star Guitar's name was drawn for that post position. Next out was pill 14, and next up was the Stall-trained My Pal Charlie. Ouch.

"How depressing," Stall said Tuesday morning. "We're rooting for scratches."

One horse in the New Orleans Handicap, Golden Yank, was cross-entered in the Mervin Muniz Handicap. Stall is hoping that trainers of other longshots will get cold feet when the depth and quality of the race becomes apparent.

Star Guitar and My Pal Charlie both worked half-miles Saturday, with the latter going in 48.40 seconds compared to the former's 50.60.

"I let Charlie do a little bit more, cause he's had only one race this year," said Stall. "We kept Star Guitar on an even keel."

Star Guitar has won four straight races and six of his seven career starts, all against Louisiana-breds. My Pal Charlie, the 2008 Super Derby winner, finished fourth in the Feb. 7 Mineshaft, his first start this year.

For the Louisiana Derby, Stall has Terrain, who raced too close to a hot pace and faded to fifth in the Delta Jackpot on Dec. 5, but has been training like a horse that has come forward over the winter.

"His last two works have been phenomenal, totally different than his works last year," Stall said. "He had a turn of foot at the end, a very strong gallop-out."

Helping charities in Hartack's name

A new charitable organization named in honor of the late Bill Hartack has been formed in New Orleans, and will host its first event on Thursday night at Harrah's Hotel and Casino.

The Bill Hartack Charitable Foundation was conceived by Eddie Sapir, a New Orleans city councilman; Tad Dowd, a longtime friend of Hartack; and trainer Mike Stidham, whose father, George, was Hartack's agent and friend. Money that the foundation raises in Hartack's name will be donated to racetrack charities.

Stidham said the public is welcome to attend Thursday's cocktails-and-hors d'oeuvres event, which runs from 6:30-8 p.m. Donations are appreciated. The foundation will host more formal charity events in the future.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the parties from whom IEAH Stables purchased majority interest in the colt. They were John G. Sikura, Glenn Sikura, and Domenic DiLalla, not Alice and John Sikura.