11/26/2001 1:00AM

Mr. Tack Nail testing waters in sprint

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ALBANY, Calif. - Trainer Len Shoemaker hopes Mr. Tack Nail can develop into a stakes-caliber horse. Wednesday's start in a $40,000 optional claimer at Golden Gate may give Shoemaker an indication of whether that will happen.

Three of Mr. Tack Nail's foes in the six-furlong race-Right Return, Millennium Song, and Lil' Country-have run in stakes, and two of the three are stakes-placed. Millennium Song is making his first start since a third-place finish in the Atherton at Bay Meadows on April 15. Lil' Country was third in the Golden State Mile here on Feb. 10.

Mr. Tack Nail finished fifth against similar competition on Oct. 18 at Bay Meadows after a 10-month layoff with a suspensory injury. In his last start, here on Nov. 8, Mr. Tack Nail was second, beaten a neck by Withholding Info after taking the lead briefly in the stretch under jockey Ben Russell.

"The first time [back] wasn't that bad," Shoemaker said. "He was drawn inside and was forced to stay in a pocket inside horses.

"In his next start, I told Ben to let him run away from the gate. I didn't want him in a speed duel, but he got caught wide. He eased back a little on the turn and got a breather and finished well."

Shoemaker said Mr. Tack Nail probably needed his first race back and that he expected improvement in his second start off the layoff.

Shoemaker expects a strong effort from Mr. Tack Nail in Wednesday's race, the horse's third start back. Mr. Tack Nail worked a bullet 46.80 seconds for a half-mile on Nov. 17.

Justnowayofknowin' should provide competition for Mr. Tack Nail. Justnowayofknowin' had a win, five seconds, and a third for trainer Chuck Peery before finishing seventh in his last start, which came at a mile here on Oct. 21.

"The horse has run well sprinting before," Peery said. "He probably would rather sprint, and he's worked well." Justnowayofknowin' worked five furlongs in 58 seconds on Nov. 21, the best of 56 works at the distance that day.

Warren breaks foot - again

Jockey Ron Warren Jr. will miss two to three weeks after fracturing his left foot for the second time this month in Saturday's Golden Bear Stakes. Warren was aboard Twentythreejaybird, who got off badly then slammed into Vito Corleone inside him. Warren cracked a bone in the same foot in a Nov. 16 starting gate mishap.

Cappuchino and Wild Celebration, who finished first and second in the Golden Bear, are likely to meet again in the Gold Rush Stakes at a mile here on Dec. 15. Twentythreejaybird will be pointed to the Sutter Stakes here on Dec. 30.

* The Jeff Bonde-trained San Nicolas, who beat older in Friday's $100,000 Forty-Niner Handicap, is being pointed to the Strub Series at Santa Anita.

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