04/25/2006 11:00PM

New gear for Miss Norman

Ryan McAlinden/EQUI-PHOTO
Noonmark (left), finishing second to Sharp Humor in the Swale, is headed for the Derby Trial on opening day at Churchill Downs vs. Mister Triester.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Some two weeks after the fact, racing fans are still talking about the wild race that Miss Norman ran in the Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

"I sure had a lot of calls about it," said the filly's owner, Greg Norman, a California businessman.

Indeed, Miss Norman comes to the 132nd Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs off an extraordinary effort in the April 14 Fantasy. Leading at the top of the stretch, the filly suddenly shied from jockey Tony Farina's whip and bolted to the far outside, surrendering the lead to the eventual winner, Ready to Please. As she tried to catch up, Miss Norman bolted again before finally finishing with a rush on the far outside to finish second by three lengths.

The effort was highly reminiscent of the trip that Broad Brush took in winning the 1986 Pennsylvania Derby under Angel Cordero Jr. Broad Brush bolted to the outside fence in the Philadelphia Park fixture before rallying on the far outside to post a highly improbable win.

Cordero said earlier this week that he was immediately reminded of the Broad Brush race when he was watching Ready to Please, trained by Todd Pletcher, benefit from the antics of Miss Norman.

"Broad Brush, he was unbelievable, one of the best horses I ever rode," said Cordero, who now works as an exercise rider for Pletcher and the agent for injured jockey John Velazquez. "Todd maybe was lucky to win that one."

Norman was at Barn 45 at Churchill Downs early Wednesday to visit with Miss Norman, an Artax filly trained by Karin Long. In December, Norman hired Long, who had worked the last several years with his yearlings at Creston Farm in California, to become his trainer. Miss Norman's race in the Fantasy represented the first official starter for Long.

"Obviously it was memorable for reasons other than it being Karin's first race," Norman said with a laugh.

Norman said that to avoid another frightening incident in the May 5 Oaks, he and Long have discussed two equipment changes. He said Miss Norman, who was wearing French cups, or nearly closed, blinkers in the Fantasy, will instead wear semi-cup blinkers to allow her greater freedom of vision. He theorized the filly may have been spooked by the whip when she was not able to see it.

Norman also said that Farina, who has the mount back for the Oaks, probably will not even carry a whip in the race.

"I know that's unusual, but I think it's what we're going to do," said Norman.

Including Miss Norman and Ready to Please, Churchill officials say

16 fillies are being pointed to the Grade 1, $500,000 Oaks. The field is limited to 14, based on graded earnings. Entries will be drawn Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, the order of preference for the Oaks was as follows: Balance, Diplomat Lady, Bushfire, Wait a While, Ex Caelis, Wonder Lady Anne L, Top Notch Lady, Ready to Please, Miss Norman, Itty Bitty Pretty, Quiet Kim, Lemons Forever, and Press Camp. The two fillies waiting to get in are Ermine and Red Cherries Spin.

Sanders gets first winner

The winning filly in the third race at Keeneland on Wednesday, Pro Pink, wasn't the only one scoring her first victory in the race. So, too, did trainer Jamie Sanders, who picked up the first victory of her career.

Sanders, a longtime exercise rider and assistant for trainer Nick Zito, won with her 19th starter since going out of her own in the fall of last year. Pro Pink, a daughter of Touch Gold owned by Joseph Novogratz, paid $50.20.

While cooling out Pro Pink an hour after the race, Sanders credited her fianc?, Donnie Kelly, whom she says works alongside her with the 26 horses they have in their care at Keeneland. Twenty-four of the 26 are 2-year-olds, she said.

Pro Pink undoubtedly ranks as one of the best. Although not one of the faster winners of the Keeneland meet - she raced 4 1/2 furlongs over a drying-out track labeled good in 53.42 seconds - she did something few 2-year-old winners accomplish: win from well off the pace. Fifth after a quarter-mile, she closed professionally under Robby Albarado to edge favored Audacious Chloe by a half-length.

Sanders, who said she galloped such standout Zito-trained runners as the 1991 Kentucky Derby winner, Strike the Gold, and the 1996 Preakness Winner, Louis Quatorze, believes Pro Pink gives every indication that she will stretch out effectively.

"She is a very special filly," Sanders said.

Sanders and Kelly have seven 2-year-olds nominated to the Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders' Cup, which will be run May 4, the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby. Sanders said they expect to run at least two in the race, but wouldn't commit Pro Pink to start, saying she wants to see how she comes out of her Wednesday race.

Leparoux to linger in Kentucky

Julien Leparoux set a Turfway Park record for most wins at a winter-spring meet, and the 22-year-old Frenchman was on the verge of becoming the first apprentice to win a riding title at Keeneland, which ends its spring meet Friday. Now Leparoux is bringing his 2006 Kentucky road show to Churchill, although he originally planned to abandon this circuit in favor of New York.

"That was the plan until about two weeks ago," said Steve Bass, Leparoux's agent. "After the Derby, we were going to go to Belmont Park, but now it looks like we'll be here the whole meet, then go to Saratoga."

Patrick Biancone, Leparoux's mentor and primary client, is leaving more horses to train at Turfway than he initially planned, which played a major part in Leparoux staying.

Mister Triester, Noonmark head Trial

Mister Triester and Noonmark look like the logical favorites for the opening-day feature at Churchill, the $100,000 Derby Trial, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds.

Mister Triester, trained by the father-son team of Warren and Glen Stute, enters off a second-place finish behind Sweetnorthernsaint in the April 8 Illinois Derby. Owner B. Wayne Hughes, who last year sent Don't Get Mad to the Derby after the colt easily won the Trial, said he does not intend to do the same thing this year if Mister Triester wins, although he has not ruled it out.

Noonmark, trained by Steve Asmussen, ran second by a neck as the favorite behind Sharp Humor in his last start, the March 4 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The Derby Trial was a Grade 3 race through 2004 but is now ungraded.

* Tickets are still available to the Louisville Thoroughbred Club's seventh annual Derby Preview on Friday night at the Derby Museum. The event begins at 6 p.m. and features a dinner buffet and Derby analysis by John Asher, Frank Lyons, Gary Stevens, Jill Byrne, and Steve Haskin. More information is available at 502-558-6755 or at www.thoroughbredclub.org.

- additional reporting by Byron King