01/18/2010 12:00AM

Jury out on Litigation Risk

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - For some of the horses in Saturday's Grade 3 Holy Bull, the race is simply a starting point. It's a spot to work out the cobwebs from a brief winter hiatus and a springboard to more important races, such as the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby later in the meet.

But for Litigation Risk, the one-mile Holy Bull is an important test. It is a chance to prove he belongs with the top 3-year-olds wintering in Florida and deserves a chance to continue on the Kentucky Derby trail in the months to come.

As of Monday, Litigation Risk was one of eight horses confirmed as definite starters for the winter's first big test for 3-year-olds in south Florida. He is expected to be joined in the lineup by Aikenite, Homeboykris, Jackson Bend, Piscitelli, Winslow Homer, William's Kitten, and Thank U Philippe.

Litigation Risk, a son of Closing Argument, has not started since finishing a distant fourth over a sloppy track in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot on Dec. 4. The start was the third and last during a 2-year-old campaign in which he ran only three times and registered one victory, a 2 3/4-length maiden tally going seven furlongs at Belmont on Oct. 25.

"This can't be the most important race on the schedules of a lot of these other horses going into the Holy Bull, but it's a good spot to test the waters and see where we're at with a horse like this," trainer Rick Violette said shortly before Litigation Risk worked five furlongs in 1:03.20 over a good track under his regular rider, Alan Garcia, at Palm Meadows on Monday.

"He's doing great. It's a chance to pick up some graded earnings and at the same time find out where we belong."

The one thing Violette is praying for Saturday is a fast racetrack. Both of Litigation Risk's losses came over wet surfaces.

"At Delta Downs, the racetrack was water on top of a hard bottom," said Violette. "He broke like he was going to go somewhere and then disappeared after a half a dozen jumps. He just didn't handle it. The same thing happened in his first start. He was good enough to still finish second against maidens but he didn't really like the wet going. I'll probably scratch him if the track comes up wet again on Saturday. It would just be a waste of time."

Joining Litigation Risk on Monday's limited work tab at Palm Meadows was Winslow Homer, who breezed a half-mile in 50.30 seconds for trainer Tony Dutrow. Winslow Homer figures to be among the favorites in the Holy Bull, coming off a 12 1/2-length entry-level allowance win at Philadelphia Park in his 2-year-old finale.

Bulls and Bears training for return

Violette also reported that Bulls and Bears, perhaps his most promising 2-year-old last summer, is back breezing again, although it will still be a while before he hits the entries again. Bulls and Bears was an impressive maiden winner at first asking but has not started since finishing fifth following a poor start and extremely unlucky trip in the Grade 2 Sanford on July 30.

"He got real sick on me and the bottom just fell out," said Violette. "I had to give him six weeks off after Saratoga. We're still a ways away with him right now."

Calabrese in unaccustomed spot

Tahitian Warrior, arguably the most impressive 3-year-old winner thus far at the meet, was also in the news this week after being purchased privately from former owner Frank Calabrese by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum's Godolphin Stable for an undisclosed sum.

Tahitian Warrior, a gelded son of Maria's Mon, won his career debut by 4 3/4 lengths going six furlongs for trainer Danny Miller here on opening day. The performance earned Tahitian Warrior a 95 Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

"I usually buy horses, not sell them, so it was an extremely tough decision for me to sell this horse, especially after a performance like that," Calabrese said. "But he is a gelding, and at some point you have to make a business decision, especially when receiving the kind of offer we got for this horse."

Tahitian Warrior was transferred to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's barn at Palm Meadows immediately after the sale but is not expected to remain in south Florida much longer.

"I've had him about five days, but I'm just babysitting the horse right now," McLaughlin said on Monday. "He's going over to them in Dubai, although at the moment I'm not quite sure when he'll be leaving."

Hockeythehayman needs spot to run

Hockeythehayman, who suffered his first setback in five starts when he was a troubled second over a yielding course in the Gulstream Park Turf sprint, worked a bullet half-mile around the dogs here Sunday. Trainer Wesley Ward is hoping to send Hockeythehayman to Dubai for the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint on Dubai World Cup night.

"It was a tough surface to handle, really deep and atrocious, here last week and my horse had a bad trip," said Ward. "I'd like to get one more start into him and then point for the race in Dubai if we can get in. The problem is there aren't any sprint stakes on turf coming up around here."

Northerners gain respect

Jockey Elaine Castillo and trainer John Tebbutt, regulars at Finger Lakes for most of the year, are starting to get themselves a local following after winning with a live longshot for the second Sunday in a row. Castillo and Tebbutt combined to win the opener on Jan. 10 with the $26.80 Small Town and struck again a week later with Hailey's Hero, who returned $17.80 after capturing Sunday's second race. Both horses are owned by the My Purple Haze Stables.

The meet's biggest shocker to date, however, was orchestrated by the Calder-based duo of jockey Pedro Monterrey Jr. and trainer Laura Posada, who put across the 99-1 Kalukahua to upset Saturday's second race on the turf. Kalukahua, a 3-year-old daughter of Thunder Gulch, paid $204.80 for the maiden win.