11/17/2008 12:00AM

Isabull tries to improve off his last


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Steve Hobby can scan the past performances of Isabull and laugh. "I kept him matched pretty good, didn't I?" Hobby asked.

Indeed, with names such as Denis of Cork, Gayego, and Monba on his paper, Isabull found some of the tougher spots in the 3-year-old ranks early in his career. After finishing sixth in the Arkansas Derby in April, the colt raced once more, finishing 13th and last in the Lone Star Derby in May, before Hobby called a time-out.

"He displaced in the Lone Star Derby, so we had a myectomy [minor throat operation] done on him," said Hobby, who soon will be consolidating his Chicago and Kentucky strings into one 40-horse stable at Oaklawn Park. "Then after we pulled his shoes and turned him out, I had a little trouble with his feet, which kept us from getting him back to the races as long as it did."

More than five months passed before Isabull, a Holy Bull colt owned by JoAnn and Alex Lieblong, returned to action. He was a decent fourth in an Oct. 18 allowance route on the Keeneland Polytrack, a race that Hobby believes should set him up well for his next start, which comes Wednesday at Churchill Downs in the $44,100 feature.

"I thought he ran pretty good over at Keeneland," Hobby said. "He got a little tired at the end, probably needed the race. I still think he's a really nice horse, that he's still got quite a future."

Isabull, with Julio Garcia to ride, was assigned post 5 in the ninth of 10 Wednesday races, an entry-level allowance set for a mile around one turn. In all, 11 3-year-olds were entered in the race, which would appear wide-open if Isabull fails to improve over his Keeneland comebacker.

His strongest opposition appears to be A.U. Miner, a Mineshaft colt who draws Robby Albarado when returning from a 4 1/2-month layoff; Hapitano, second at this same level when overlooked at 22-1 here Nov. 5; Lord and T., a D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt who suddenly came alive at the Keeneland fall meet; Blackwater Legend, who, like Isabull, stands to benefit substantially from his latest race at Keeneland; and Duke of Pearl, who rises from the conditioned-claiming ranks after earning a 90 Beyer Speed Figure in a recent victory.

First post Wednesday is 12:40 p.m. Eastern.