04/17/2003 12:00AM

Looking past the Tesio to Preakness


Trainer Gary Capuano admits Cherokee's Boy isn't ready to tackle the nation's best 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Derby. But Capuano does have his eye on the second leg of racing's Triple Crown.

Cherokee's Boy, a winner of four restricted stakes but no better than third in three tries in stakes races against open company, will try to use Saturday's $150,000 Tesio Stakes at Pimlico as a stepping-stone to the Preakness.

"The Derby is pretty much out. He doesn't seem to fit with those kind of horses at this point," said Capuano, who trained Captain Bodgit, second-place finisher in the 1997 Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness. "If everything works well, we will probably try the Preakness."

Prepping for the Preakness in the 1 1/8-mile Tesio worked last year for Magic Weisner. He finished second in both races.

Cherokee's Boy, a winner of 5 of 11 starts, most recently finished fifth in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, beaten 13 1/4 lengths by Ten Most Wanted.

"He really didn't have a real excuse," Capuano said. "My horse was in a perfect striking position and we moved to them turning for home, but he just didn't have enough."

Besides Cherokee's Boy, the only other Triple Crown nominees in the six-horse Tesio field are Gimmeawink and Penobscot Bay.

Gimmeawink won the Miracle Wood at Laurel in early February, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 98, but was never a factor during a three-wide trip in the Gotham at Aqueduct five weeks later. Penobscot Bay is winless in three starts this year, but was a close second to Gimmeawink in the 1 1/16-mile Miracle Wood.

A tape-delayed broadcast of the Tesio will be shown on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. Eastern.

* In the co-feature, P Day and Lyracist, who finished noses apart in a nine-furlong stakes last month at Laurel, are rematched in the Grade 3, $125,000 Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

The 8-year-old P Day has 15 lifetime wins, but is only 1 for 7 at Pimlico. Lyracist, a 7-year-old, is 0 for 3 against P Day since March 2002, but just missed after an extremely wide trip in the March 15 H.E. Johnson Memorial.

Two fresh faces who could make an impact are 4-year-old colts Changeintheweather and Private Lap.

Changeintheweather has been idle since romping against third-level allowance horses at Gulfstream Park in mid-February. Private Lap comes in from New York after earning a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 105 in a conditioned allowance at nine furlongs.