08/05/2002 11:00PM

Manning bides his time with Valid Video


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Soon after watching his top juvenile, Valid Video, win his racing debut June 14 by an impressive 2 1/2 lengths and clock five furlongs in a rapid 57.11 seconds, trainer Dennis Manning made a statement that seems unusual in today's racing industry.

"You won't see him for a while," he said. "I'll give him a break and train him right up to the Sapling."

With Valid Video coming off a great debut and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 95, most trainers would return him into stakes company quickly. But Manning said immediately he would give Valid Video nearly two months before his next start, a move that is unorthodox in a business that sees 2-year-olds brought along quickly, in some cases before they fully mature.

Yet Manning has held to the schedule, and Valid Video is geared up for his second career start in Saturday's Grade 3 Sapling, Monmouth Park's premier race for 2-year-olds. Manning said he never reconsidered his decision to keep Valid Video, a gelded son of Valid Wager, fresh for the Sapling without a prep race.

"I had no desire to run him anywhere else," Manning said. "The plan was for him to break his maiden and go right to the Sapling. I didn't even look at the condition book for another race."

Valid Video was purchased by Paul Tinkle, racing manager for Manning's main owner, Mac Fehsenfeld, as a weanling at the Ocala October sale for $29,000. Valid Video was raised at Fehsenfeld's Indiana farm before being sent to the Classic Mile Training Center in Ocala, Fla., to be broken as a late yearling and young 2-year-old. While Valid Video was being broken by Danny Delk, Manning had an opportunity to observe, because he is based there in the winter.

"He looked like a typical Valid Appeal, small and speedy-looking," Manning said. "Danny kept telling me he was a real nice colt, but you never know with 2-year-olds till they run."

Once Valid Video began training at Monmouth, Manning said he took notice of Valid Video's potential. In each workout, he finished up stronger than he started, a style that would come to the surface in his debut. Over a sloppy track, Valid Video stalked the pace a length back of leader Farno, and then kicked home strongly at the eighth-pole to win going away. Valid Video went the last furlong in 11.65 seconds.

"He's already a professional," Manning said, adding that Valid Video's debut race was indicative of the push-button horse he is. "He'll lay there, and lay there, and when you ask him . . . boom! He just explodes."

Valid Video has been training very well for his second start. While Valid Video will be a maiden winner in a graded stakes, Manning expects Valid Video to be at his best.

"You can't run babies too often," Manning said. "I don't believe in that. He's a very talented horse, but Saturday will tell us what kind of horse he is."

Hills runners sidelined

Tim Hills, the runaway leader in the trainer standings with 23 wins, nine clear of his closest competitors, said that two of his standouts will miss planned out-of-town starts this Saturday after coming down with minor injuries.

Joe's Son Joey, one of the top turf sprinters in the East, was scheduled to stretch out to one mile on the turf in the West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup at Mountaineer Park, but wrenched an ankle during training and will skip the race. Hills said X-rays were negative, and Joe's Son Joey will aim for a start at The Meadowlands.

Wish It Were, winner of the Dearly Precious Stakes on June 30, is suffering from a splint that flared up, Hills said. Wish It Were was slated to run in the Duchess Stakes at Woodbine Saturday. Wish It Were also skipped the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on July 27 because of a lung infection.

"She needed a good workout to get into the race at Canada," Hills said, adding that "all these injuries are minor stuff that happens in training." The injuries, he said, "wouldn't be a big deal if they didn't have races coming up."

Early lead crucial factor in feature

With speed holding extremely well on Sunday and nearly all of last week, the key angle in handicapping Thursday's featured eighth race is which of the six fillies or mares will want to grab the early lead.

Coming off two victories by a combined margin of 18 lengths, the New Jersey-bred Picnic Theme is the one to beat in the optional claiming two-other-than allowance at 1 1/16 miles. With the conditions of the open allowance excluding victories in statebred races, Picnic Theme gets into the race with four careers wins, two of which came in the statebred ranks.

Trained by Kevin Sleeter, who sits in third place in the trainer standings with 13 wins, Picnic Theme has the early speed that will make her the one to catch. In her last start, on July 24 versus open company, she seized the lead along the backstretch before opening up to win by eight lengths.

Quiet Broad, Girl on the Go, Annatoga, Delta Quick, and Weepecket complete the field.

* Autonomy, winner of the $65,000 Battlefield Stakes last Sunday in his first U.S. stakes appearance, will make his next start in the $50,000 Bob Harding Stakes at one mile Aug. 31, trainer Phil Oliver said. Autonomy has won three in a row on the Monmouth turf course. Oliver took over his training this year from Christophe Clement.

* Jeb's Wild jumped up from a maiden win on the turf, his first grass start and fourth career race, to the $65,000 Lamplighter Stakes last Sunday, and finished second after setting the pace. Trainer Tim Hills said he may return in the $50,000 Spend A Buck Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile on the turf Aug. 24.