12/17/2007 1:00AM

Mach Ride drills for 2008 return

EmailMIAMI - Mach Ride, whose outstanding 2007 campaign came to an abrupt halt one week before the Breeders' Cup Sprint due to a foot abscess, appears fit and ready to begin his 2008 season after working four furlongs in 48.18 seconds here Monday.

Mach Ride, who upset Eclipse Award contenders Fabulous Strike and Smokey Stover when capturing Calder's Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap in July, went in 24.38 seconds and 36.67 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.12 immediately after the renovation break. He breezed in company with stablemate Husker Nation.

"He worked well," trainer Steve Standridge said. "The abscess took longer to heal than expected because when it originally popped out we tried to harden it up to make the Breeders' Cup and there was still a little infection left in there. So we had to pop it and cut it out again. But his foot is good now, and if everything stays on track, we're looking at the Mr. Prospector and Sunshine Millions to start out in 2008."

The six-furlong Grade 3 Mr. Prospector will be run at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 5, with the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Sprint to be decided on Jan. 26.

Other notable stakes horses to breeze Monday in the unseasonably brisk weather were Flying Circle (four furlongs in 52.40 seconds), Wise Answer (five furlongs in 1:01), Croton Road (five furlongs in 1:01.40), He's Eze (five furlongs in 1:01.40), and Potra Clasica (four furlongs in 49.60).

Another young prospect for Zito

Nick Zito already has the nation's top 3-year-old prospect for 2008 in his barn, the undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile champion War Pass. But as the two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer will be the first to admit, one can never have enough promising 3-year-olds under the shed as Triple Crown season approaches.

Zito's arsenal of talented young horses grew even larger after Fierce Wind dominated a field of maiden special weight rivals when making his two-turn debut here Sunday. The son of Dixie Union won off by better than 10 lengths, despite being geared down for most of the final furlong by jockey Cornelio Velasquez.

"We always thought he had a lot of talent," Zito said. "So naturally we were discouraged and somewhat puzzled after he ran badly in his first two starts. At that point, I decided to just stop on him, regroup, and wait to get a two-turn race for him in Florida."

Zito's strategy worked to perfection, and following Fierce Wind's impressive victory, the Hall of Fame trainer is now looking ahead to what he hopes are bigger and better things this winter at Gulfstream Park.

"I guess we'll probably stretch him out to a mile and one-eighth in a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream," said Zito, who trains Fierce Wind for Four Roses Thoroughbreds. "This is the type of horse who could benefit from the 3-year-old program they have over there if he continues to progress."

As for War Pass, the likely juvenile champion for 2007, Zito reported he has been taking it easy since shipping to Palm Meadows earlier this month.

"He had an unbelievable November in the cooler weather at Churchill Downs but was a little lethargic when first coming down into the heat here," Zito said. "He's been jogging and galloping at Palm Meadows and probably isn't too far away from a work."

Zito said if all goes well, he'll map out a three-race plan for War Pass leading up to the Kentucky Derby which will include the Wood Memorial.

Fortunate Trail wins 11th of year

Fortunate Trail, who has had starter-allowance competition at his mercy throughout the 2007 campaign, posted his 11th victory of the season Monday in a race carded for horses that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less in 2006 or 2007. The win was the fifth in the last six starts for Fortunate Trail, a 6-year-old son of Fortunate Prospect, whose only defeat during that streak came at 1 1/8 miles on Oct. 28.

Trained by Kirk Ziadie for owner Richard Averill, Fortunate Trail has not finished worse than third in 17 starts in 2007, while increasing his seasonal earnings to nearly $120,000 with Monday's victory.