06/04/2007 12:00AM

Kaplan revisits New York roots


ELMONT, N.Y. - Participating in Saturday's Belmont Stakes is a homecoming of sorts for Florida-based trainer Bill Kaplan.

Kaplan, who will saddle Imawildandcrazyguy in the Belmont, is a native of Brooklyn and spent the first 30 years of his life in New York. He attended Midwood High School in Brooklyn and went to college at Long Island University, graduating with a degree in accounting. He eventually went to work in Manhattan for the accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

It wasn't until 1980 - after he had moved to Florida to open a commuter airline company - that Kaplan got into horse racing, first as an owner and then as a trainer. He has developed a knack for buying inexpensive 2-year-olds and turning them into stakes winners. Imawildandcrazyguy was a $28,000 purchase who has earned $315,775. Storm in May, whom Kaplan is running in Friday's $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes, was a $16,000 purchase who has earned $459,430.

"My uncle was a big horse player,'' Kaplan said. "He loved horses. He talked me into buying a horse - that's how I got started. I owned one first, then drifted into training.''

One of his early successes was Seacliff, who swept the Florida Stallion Stakes series in 1995. Seacliff ran in that year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, finishing 10th behind Unbridled's Song. That represented Kaplan's last starter at Belmont Park.

Kaplan said he has briefly considered coming back to New York to train, but believes Calder is the best place for him.

"I really am a specialist of developing 2-year-olds and there's no place that could match Calder with 2-year-olds,'' he said.

Kaplan said he keeps the majority of his 2-year-olds, but did almost sell Imawildandcrazyguy for $1 million last fall.

"We had him sold for a million dollars really early on, but they found out he was a gelding and they changed their minds,'' said Kaplan.

Storm in May among six in Hill Prince

Before he gets to saddle Imawildandcrazyguy in the Belmont, Kaplan will run Storm in May against five rivals in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on the turf at one mile.

Storm in May finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby after running second to Curlin in the Arkansas Derby, albeit 10 1/2 lengths back. Storm in May has won twice on grass. In his most recent start on turf, he finished third behind Duveen and Soldier's Dancer in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream.

"That was on soft turf, which isn't up his alley, and at a mile and an eighth, which is not his best distance,'' Kaplan said. "I like him at a mile to a mile and a sixteenth.''

Juan Leyva will ride Storm in May from post 2 under high weight of 123 pounds. His main competition figures to come from Marcavelly, who won the Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland before finishing fourth behind Duveen in the Crown Royal American Turf at Churchill on Oaks Day.

Others in the Hill Prince field include Distorted Reality, Royal War Academy, Reptilian Smarts, and Codeword. Believeinmenow was entered for main-track only.

Invasor on track for Suburban

After going nearly two weeks without a workout, defending Horse of the Year Invasor breezed four furlongs in 48.91 seconds on Saturday. He worked in company with the filly Wild Hoots.

It was Invasor's third work since returning from his victory in the Dubai World Cup, but his first since May 16. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the gap between works was by design, and the horse still remains on course for the Grade 1, $400,000 Suburban Handicap here on June 30.

"He's been on a regular schedule,'' McLaughlin said. "His regular schedule is just different from everybody else's. He gallops strong. We don't need seven works going into the race.''

McLaughlin said Invasor will likely have three more works before the Suburban, which could draw graded stakes winners Corinthian and Harlington.

Octave's next race up in the air

All spring, Octave has raced in the shadow of her bigger, more accomplished stablemate Rags to Riches, and that trend will continue this weekend. Octave could start Saturday in the Grade 1, $250,000 Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies in order to avoid Rags to Riches in the Grade 1, $250,000 Mother Goose Stakes on June 30.

But their trainer, Todd Pletcher, on Monday said that if he decides to run Rags to Riches against males on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes, he would re-route Octave to the Mother Goose.

Rags to Riches and Octave finished one-two in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks last time out. The Acorn is at one mile, the Mother Goose 1 1/8 miles. Pletcher said another of his fillies, Cotton Blossom, will run in the Acorn on Saturday.

"I could run both Cotton Blossom and Octave in the Acorn," Pletcher said at his barn Monday morning. "Octave's plans could change depending on what we do with Rags to Riches. If Rags to Riches runs in the Belmont, Octave could wait for the Mother Goose."

Pletcher was scheduled to decide on Tuesday whether to run Rags to Riches in the Belmont.

Five races on turf Wednesday

After receiving some much-needed rain on Sunday and Monday, Belmont's two turf courses will be put to good use with five races on Wednesday's card slated for the turf. The most interesting is a New York-bred optional claiming race in which 10 of the 12 participants are being offered for the $50,000 claiming tag. The other two are in for the second-level allowance condition.

Redefined came off a nine-month layoff to win a $35,000 claiming race over this course, his fifth win from nine Belmont turf starts. Metro Meteor is 3 for 4 at Belmont, but shows a preference for firm turf.

Southern Prince held off Theconfidenceman by a neck in a spot similar to this on May 5.

* Fernando Jara, the regular rider of Grade 1 winners Invasor and Jazil, has hired Roger Sutton to be his new agent, replacing Gatewood Bell. Jara had hired Bell to replace Randy Romero back in January. Jara is 23 for 245 this year, only 2 for 31 at this meet.- additional reporting by Jay Privman