05/06/2004 12:00AM

Imperialism's itchy

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Imperialism, with trainer Kristin Mulhall, will do some work at the starting gate.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Imperialism, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, is likely to start in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 15 if he continues to train well in coming days, trainer Kristin Mulhall said.

Imperialism had his first exercise since the Kentucky Derby on Thursday at Hollywood Park. He jogged 1 1/8 miles on the main track and went to the gate for a schooling session.

Mulhall said she was happy with the colt's progress, and if that continues, Imperialism will be sent to Pimlico on Wednesday.

"I'll see in the next few days," she said. "We'll see how he eats up and how he acts. He was good today. If he keeps going good, we'll probably go. If he shows any signs of getting sick or tired, he won't go."

If Imperialism starts in the Preakness, the race will provide a rematch of the first three finishers of the Kentucky Derby. Imperialism finished six lengths behind winner Smarty Jones and 3 1/4 lengths behind runner-up Lion Heart.

Other expected Preakness starters are Borrego, Eddington, Rock Hard Ten, The Cliff's Edge, and Water Cannon.

Eddington and Rock Hard Ten were excluded from the Kentucky Derby because they did not rank among the top 20 in earnings in graded stakes. Water Cannon is based in Maryland and trained by Linda Albert.

Imperialism returned to Mulhall's base at Hollywood Park on Wednesday. While based here, Imperialism will be schooled at the gate with Mulhall and Hollywood Park starter Gary Brinson.

Mulhall said the frequent schooling sessions are important for Imperialism, who can be ornery at the gate.

"He's not bad and he won't get himself hurt, but he's learned how to push the front of the gate open," she said. "We have to keep taking him. If you let up on him, he's a bad boy."

Mulhall said that Imperialism will jog through Saturday, with the distance increasing to two miles. She said Imperialism is likely to have a three-furlong breeze on Tuesday before traveling.

Mulhall, 21, rides Imperialism during his training, and said she wouldn't be surprised if he acts up during track work in coming days.

"I want to see him try to buck me off," she said. "If he gets that close to dumping me, he's going. That means he's feeling good."

Owned by Steve Taub, Imperialism has won 5 of 16 starts and $522,605.

In the Kentucky Derby, Imperialism rallied through traffic and was closing well through the stretch. Mulhall said that even without the trouble Imperialism might not have won.

"No matter what happened, I don't think he would have beaten Smarty," Mulhall said. "He looks like a freak."

The decision by Taub and Mulhall to strongly consider the Preakness for Imperialism enthused jockey Kent Desormeaux.

"I can't wait," Desormeaux said. "I'd like to ride that Derby again."

Smarty to Servis: 'I need to do more'

Meanwhile, Derby winner Smarty Jones continues to show his trainer, John Servis, all the right signs as he prepares for the Preakness. On Thursday at Philadelphia Park, Smarty Jones galloped 1 1/2 miles while next to the stable pony. The only horse allowed to train immediately following the renovation break, Smarty Jones entered the track at the quarter-pole gap and backed up to the half-mile pole. Exercise rider Pete Van Trump turned him around and Smarty Jones, with his head down, galloped alongside the pony, on which Servis was aboard.

While saying he was happy with the gallop, Servis said Smarty Jones was "a little more on his toes than I wanted to see coming home."

"He started off nice and relaxed; he got tougher as we went on," Servis said. "He pulled me really hard, and I know he was pulling Pete really hard the last three-quarters of a mile. The big thing is when he was done galloping he kind of bounced the whole way home, which to me tells me he needs to do a little more. He's at that stage where he's telling me, 'This ain't gonna get it. I need to do a little more than this.' So that's all good."

Servis planned on letting Smarty Jones gallop without the pony next to him on Friday. Servis said that he is now leaning toward shipping Smarty Jones to Pimlico following training on Wednesday, the day Preakness post positions are drawn.

Servis was scheduled to be appear on Good Morning America on Thursday. However, the crew from that show was delayed by an accident on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and never made it here.

Stewart Elliott, the jockey of Smarty Jones, is scheduled to appear on the Today Show on Tuesday.

Elliott said Thursday that he would most likely ride this summer at Monmouth Park and come to Philadelphia Park on Monmouth's dark days, Monday and Tuesday. Thanks to a state subsidy, daily purses at Monmouth Park should exceed $300,000. Elliott said that many of the clients he rides for at Philadelphia Park also run horses at Monmouth.

No Preakness for Read the Footnotes

Read the Footnotes, the seventh-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, will not run in the Preakness, trainer Rick Violette said Thursday. His stablemate Swingforthefences is a remote possibility to start. Swingforthefences, who finished fourth in the Wood Memorial, is more likely to run in either the Sir Barton at Pimlico on the Preakness undercard or the Grade 3, $150,000 Marine Stakes at Woodbine on May 22.

Violette said Read the Footnotes came out of Derby with "crud in his lungs, and running back in two weeks just doesn't make sense." Violette said he might point Read the Footnotes to the Peter Pan on May 22.

Swingforthefences was expected to breeze on Friday at Aqueduct.

"He certainly has to train as good as he was training before the Wood to make us leave the door open," said Violette, who added, "there'd have to be fallout" from the Preakness field to consider running the colt.

Borrego; 'Feeling really, really good'

With trainer Beau Greely having left Louisville, Ky., for a few days to attend the wedding of his sister Laura in the Bahamas on Saturday, there was little change in the training routine of Borrego, the 10th-place Derby finisher who is one of several Preakness hopefuls still at Churchill Downs.

Dennis Foster, the Lexington, Ky., businessman who co-owns Borrego with Raleigh Ralls, Jon and Sara Kelly, and several other partners, said the colt was full of energy again Thursday.

"He's feeling really, really good," said Foster. "He was tired after the race, but the next morning he was knocking the barn down, which made us all think that maybe he didn't like the track or he had something wrong that we just haven't been able to pinpoint. The best thing is how he's been acting since then. He is doing so well that we feel like we have to give him another chance."

Foster said Greely was scheduled to return to Louisville Sunday night and that Borrego would breeze the following morning. Borrego will be on a charter flight from Louisville to Baltimore early Wednesday.

Friends Lake eyeing Belmont

Trainer John Kimmel said Friends Lake, 15th in the Kentucky Derby, is only 20 percent likely to run in the Preakness. Friends Lake arrived home at Kimmel's Belmont Park barn on Wednesday and went back to the track for the first time since the Derby on Thursday. The colt galloped over Belmont's training track.

"I'm considering running him in the Peter Pan and back in the Belmont," Kimmel said. "He seems to like this racetrack, and the Peter Pan would give him another race over the track before the Belmont. Last year, he ran well in the Sleepy Hollow, and this is home track."

Friends Lake was an easy winner of the Sleepy Hollow for New York-breds last October in his only start at Belmont.

- additional reporting by David Grening, Karen M. Johnson, and Marty McGee