07/12/2007 11:00PM

Local standouts hitting road to Spa

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Curlin was among the first group of horses to ship out from Churchill Downs for the Saratoga meet when he made the trip Thursday with many of the other top horses that had been based in Kentucky since early April with Steve Asmussen's powerhouse stable.

Curlin, winner of the Preakness and most recently a close second to Rags to Riches in the June 9 Belmont Stakes, has been in steady training at Churchill. He is expected to continue virtually interrupted at Saratoga while being pointed to the Aug. 5 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Saratoga starts July 25.

Meanwhile, standouts from smaller Churchill outfits also will be on their way to Saratoga in the coming days, including Sheets, winner of the Azalea Breeders' Cup last weekend at Calder for trainer T.V. Smith, and Ermine, the Grade 1-winning filly who most recently was fourth in the June 17 Fleur de Lis at Churchill.

Sheets will be pointed to the Grade 1 Test Stakes on Aug. 4, while Ermine, trained by Ronny Werner, is headed to the Grade 1 Go for Wand on July 28.

The Azalea victory by Sheets further flattered what has to be one of the most productive maiden races in Churchill history. On June 10, 2006, Change Up won a 5 1/2-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies, with Sheets finishing second, High Heels third, and Rags to Riches fourth. All four are now graded stakes winners.

Street Sense gets in a breeze

Another Saratoga-bound star, Street Sense, had another workout at Churchill, breezing five furlongs in 1:02.20 early Friday over a fast Churchill strip.

With regular rider Calvin Borel traveling to the Cajun Jockey Challenge on Friday night at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana, exercise rider Tracey Wilkes was aboard Street Sense for the work, which came before the regularly scheduled harrow break at about 7:30oa.m.

Street Sense is being pointed to the July 29 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. He probably will work once more with Borel aboard before leaving for Saratoga next weekend, according to trainer Carl Nafzger.

Byrne pointing Maggie Slew to Gardenia

Maggie Slew, a sharp winner of a one-mile allowance race on July 1 at Churchill, is being pointed to the Grade 3 Gardenia Handicap Aug. 18 at Ellis Park, said trainer Pat Byrne.

Maggie Slew, a 4-year-old filly who already owns a measure of fame as the final offspring of the late Seattle Slew, was making her first start for Byrne after having been prepared for all 16 of her previous races by Dave Vance.

As the anchor of what Ellis calls its Big Four Stakes Day, the $150,000 Gardenia is one of two highlights at the Ellis meet. The first major high point comes Aug. 4 with the seven-race, $600,000 Claiming Crown. This is the first year the Claiming Crown will be run in Kentucky, and just the second in the nine-year history of the series it will be run anywhere other than Canterbury Park in Minnesota.

Martinez-O'Brien team off sharply

Trainer Ralph Martinez and his main client, Louis O'Brien, got off to a terrific start at the Ellis meet by winning with 7 of their first 13 starters. Martinez, who won his first Ellis title last year, looks like a good bet to repeat, considering the numbers he has at his disposal and his perennially high win percentage.

Among jockeys, Orlando Mojica took advantage of riding the first week of the Ellis meet while several other likely contenders were still active during closing week of the Churchill meet. Through Thursday, Mojica led the Ellis standings with 12 winners while Miguel Mena, who figures to be a major factor by meet's end, is just getting started.

* The Sunday feature at Ellis is the sixth race, a $26,000 overnight handicap for fillies and mares at 5o1/2 furlongs on the turf. No Llores Catita, a stretch-running mare coming off several sharp efforts in the high-claiming ranks at Churchill, clashes with several multiple allowance winners, including Tax Refund and High Heritage.