05/09/2007 11:00PM

Kaplan preparing 3-year-olds for N.Y.


MIAMI - Finishing fourth in a race is rarely cause for celebration, but trainer Bill Kaplan had a right to feel proud of Imawildandcrazyguy's fourth-place finish in last Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

Imawildandcrazyguy was one of two horses Kaplan started in the Derby. The other, Storm in May, finished 16th in the field of 20 3-year-olds. Imawildandcrazyguy rallied from last after seven furlongs to finish just a half-length behind Curlin for third money in the Derby after "swinging out 10 wide entering the stretch," according to the official chart of the race.

"Man, he ran just like I hoped he would," Kaplan said of Imawildand-crazyguy, who is owned by Lewis Pell and Michael Eigner. "He's a horse who has no turn of foot but is an endurance specialist and can run all day. Like I said before the Derby, he's got the most amazing cardiovascular system I've ever seen. He never gets tired.

"After his gallops, after workouts, even after running a mile and one-quarter in the Derby, he's not even blowing when he gets back to the barn," he added. "I knew he'd make a run in the race and pass some horses, but I didn't know how many, and when he was so far back early you begin to worry. But I thought the jock [Mark Guidry] rode him perfectly, keeping him within himself and letting him come on like he did, and I don't second-guess him for losing a ton of ground into the stretch. If he'd have tried to go through horses, he'd likely have gotten stopped or at least have to hesitate at some point."

Kaplan sent both Imawildand-crazyguy and Storm in May back to the track at Calder on Thursday morning. Imawildandcrazyguy will be pointed for the June 9 Belmont Stakes, while Storm in May could go in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes at one mile on the turf the previous afternoon. Kaplan said he also is thinking about sending his other top 3-year-old, Drums of Thunder, up to New York the same weekend to run in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes on the Belmont undercard. Drums of Thunder had to stop training just before the Florida Derby due to a minor leg infection.

"Bringing all three up to New York would be a real thrill for me, since I am a New Yorker and so are the owners of Imawildandcrazyguy," said Kaplan, who was born and raised in Brooklyn.

Kaplan also said he'll always savor this year's Derby experience.

"It was a wonderful experience, and part of what made it so wonderful was having been here before, with Harold Rose in 2000," said Kaplan, who helped Rose saddle Hal's Hope in that year's Derby. "Because I'd seen it once already, I knew what to expect, and as a result was able to do what I had to do with my horses without being uptight and apprehensive. If I hadn't been through it before, I'd probably have been tied up in knots.

"About the only unpleasant experience was trying to fight the crowd after the race to get down and talk to my riders. There was such a maze of people, I just couldn't get through. That was frustrating, but otherwise the whole week was a lot of fun."

O'Connell gets 1,000th win

Kathleen O'Connell achieved a milestone when Royal Sissy won Sunday's finale to give the trainer her 1,000th career victory. O'Connell, a native of Detroit, has been a regular on the local circuit for nearly 20 years and a mainstay in the top 10 here for more than a decade. She also captured the training title at Tampa Bay Downs in 1998-99, and has continued to split her stable and maintain a large division at the northern Florida track each winter.

Generally recognized to be among the hardest workers on the local backstretch, O'Connell is best known for training the versatile millionaire Blazing Sword, who won two divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes in 1996 as well as the Grade 2 Washington Park Handicap four years later.

Reappeal Stakes tops 13-race card

The $50,000 Reappeal Stakes, an overnight race carded at five furlongs on the turf, will highlight Saturday's 13-race program. A field of 10 was drawn for the Reappeal, led by Lord Robyn, Mr. Silver, Not Acclaim, and Hollywood Left.

Lord Robyn seeks to rebound from an eighth-place finish in the Tampa Turf Dash on March 17, which followed a game third-level optional claiming victory at Gulfstream Park. Lord Robyn won the Blazing Sword Stakes here last June.

Mr. Silver easily handled Lord Robyn when second in the Tampa Dash while finishing a length in front of The Nth Degree, who returned to capture Keeneland's Shakertown Stakes in his next start.

Hollywood Left snapped a five-race losing streak with a popular victory over starter allowance opposition at Gulfstream. He won the Hooting Star Stakes on the local course in October.

Not Acclaim comes off a troubled outing at Gulfstream and adds blinkers for his return to Calder.