04/20/2006 11:00PM

McLaughlin tiring of big-race seconds

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Sweetnorthernsaint, Mario Pino aboard, works five furlongs in 1:00 Friday at Laurel.

In the past year, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has had horses finish second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, second in the Remsen Stakes, second in the Wood Memorial, and, oh yes, second in the Kentucky Derby. It's a nice place parlay, but he wouldn't mind getting a winner's circle photo, too.

"It would be nice to get up and win a big one," McLaughlin said Friday.

McLaughlin is taking aim at this year's Kentucky Derby with at least one and as many as three starters. Jazil, who most recently

finished second in the Wood, is definitely in. Like Now was scheduled to clarify

his Derby status in the Lexington Stakes on Saturday at Keeneland. And with just a few more defections from the graded-stakes earnings list, Flashy Bull could end up in the Derby, too.

Jazil was one of two Derby contenders to work on Friday. He breezed a half-mile in 50.62 seconds at Belmont Park with exercise rider Simon Harris. At Laurel in Maryland, Illinois Derby winner Sweetnorthernsaint flew through five furlongs in 1:00, the best time of 25 at the distance.

McLaughlin watched Jazil's early morning drill at Belmont, caught a flight to Louisville, Ky., then drove through a rainstorm to Lexington to supervise Like Now's final preparations for the Lexington.

"Jazil worked real well," McLaughlin said from Kentucky. "He went off a little slow, in about 26 and change, but then he flew home in 24 and went out in 12 seconds for the next eighth. I wanted something in 49, but he went in 50 and was out in 1:02, so he kept right on going."

Jazil is scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Thursday. According to McLaughlin, Jazil will stay at Keeneland initially, then will be sent by van to Churchill Downs on April 29 and have his final Derby drill on April 30, the Sunday before the Derby.

Flashy Bull, who most recently was seventh in the Florida Derby, is currently 22nd on the list of Derby contenders as ranked by graded stakes earnings. If more than 20 horses enter the Derby, as expected, the 20-horse field will be determined by earnings in graded stakes.

"It's a definite question mark as to whether he'll get in," McLaughlin said of Flashy Bull.

McLaughlin said that trainer Todd Pletcher's decision to pass the Lexington with Sunriver gave him hope. "Todd must like his chances, and Sunriver's behind Flashy," McLaughlin said.

Flashy Bull is scheduled to work Sunday at Keeneland, then the following Sunday at Churchill.

"I might even work him and Jazil together on the 30th," McLaughlin said. "Sometimes Flashy doesn't work well alone.

Flashy Bull could move up the earnings list if Mister Triester defects from the Derby. Mister Triester, who is 21st on the earnings list, is scheduled to run in the ungraded Derby Trial on April 29 at Churchill Downs. Trainer Warren Stute said he very much doubted that Mister Triester would come back a week later in the Kentucky Derby. Last year, though, Don't Get Mad won the Derby Trial and came back in the Derby to run fourth. Don't Get Mad is owned by B. Wayne Hughes, who also owns Mister Triester.

All three of McLaughlin's potential Derby starters should be no lower than moderate longshots. Last year, though, McLaughlin nearly won the Derby with Closing Argument, who finished second as the race's longest shot at 71-1.

"You have to be happy that he ran well and was second beaten only a half-length, but then you think, 'Damn it, that was the Kentucky Derby!'" McLaughlin said.

Closing Argument was the first Derby starter for McLaughlin. One year later, that is the position for Mike Trombetta, who has his first Derby starter in Sweetnorthernsaint.

Like Jazil, Sweetnorthernsaint on Friday started off slowly and then came home quickly in his workout. Clockers at Laurel gave Sweetnorthernsaint fractions of 25 seconds for a quarter and 49 seconds for a half, meaning his final furlong was in approximately 11 seconds. Mario Pino was up.

"He really picked it up," Trombetta said from Maryland. "I moved his work up a day because it's supposed to rain.

"I was happy with what he did. Everybody does things differently. Bob and John came back and worked 59 and change, and Barbaro hasn't even worked since the Florida Derby. You just have to do what works for you. I don't want to overdo it before the big one."

Sweetnorthernsaint is scheduled to be sent by van to Churchill Downs on Tuesday. He is scheduled to have his final Derby workout on April 29, one week before the May 6 Derby.