04/25/2002 11:00PM

New kid on block trains live Derby longshot

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Stephen Margolis, a longtime assistant trainer, knew he would eventually go out on his own when the time was right. Circumstances dictated that the right time was November 2000.

And now, just 18 months into his training career, Margolis is already in the Kentucky Derby with a live longshot in Request for Parole, who has three wins, three seconds, and a third from eight stakes appearances.

"A lot of guys wait their whole lives to even run in the Derby,'' Margolis said. "I feel fortunate.''

Margolis, 38, is originally from Long Island, N.Y., and began working on the backstretch at Belmont Park in his youth. He would eventually work as an assistant for trainers Pat Byrne, Howie Tesher, and Stanley Hough, running Hough's Kentucky stable starting in 1997.

In the fall of 2000, Hough's main client, Bob Roberts, dispersed the majority of his racing stock, and Hough went into semi-retirement. Margolis took the opportunity to start his own stable.

In 2001, Margolis won 16 races from 129 starters and his horses earned $475,075 in purse money. About $200,000 of that came from Request for Parole, who gave Margolis his first stakes win, in the Ellis Park Juvenile last August. The rest of Margolis's

12-horse stable is made up primarily of claiming horses.

Margolis is fortunate to have Request for Parole. According to Hough, Request for Parole was to be sold as a yearling in early 2000. However, at the time of the sale Request for Parole was sick and was withdrawn and given to Margolis.

After Request for Parole's first start, Roberts sold him to Jeri and Sam Knighton, who retained Margolis as the trainer.

Request for Parole won his next two starts before finishing second, beaten a neck by Harlan's Holiday, in the Cradle Stakes at River Downs. Request for Parole would run second to Harlan's Holiday again in the Iroquois at Churchill. Request for Parole also finished second to Repent - who would have been among the Derby favorites had he not been injured - in the Kentucky Jockey Club.

At 3, Request for Parole has done nothing wrong. He won a pair of minor stakes at Turfway Park before finishing third, beaten a neck in the Grade 2 Spiral. In that race, Request for Parole was much closer to the pace than Margolis had hoped.

The Spiral was a hard race on Request for Parole, explaining why Margolis elected to skip the Blue Grass Stakes and train up to the Derby. Thursday, Margolis looked on as jockey Robby Albarado put Request for Parole through a strong six-furlong workout in 1:13.40, his final breeze for the race.

Margolis said he will try to enjoy his first Derby experience, something made easier by the fact that few are tabbing his horse as a top-flight contender despite the fact only three horses in the Derby field have won more races than Request for Parole.

"When you're a longshot you don't feel pressure as much,'' Margolis said. "We're hopeful the colt runs well. He has run well over this track against the Derby favorite. Hopefully, that will help up us out.

"He's a genuine horse,'' Margolis added. "He gives it his all. Whether he'll go a mile and a quarter, we'll see. There's no hype horse, no real super horse, that's why there's going to be a field of 20.''

A kinder, gentler Saarland

Since having surgery to correct a breathing problem on April 17, Remsen Stakes winner Saarland appears to be a more relaxed, confident animal, according to exercise rider Adolph "Juice'' Krajewski.

Krajewski, who galloped Saarland a mile Thursday at Churchill, said that before the surgery Saarland could be kind of mopey heading to the track and would often refuse to simply stand and look around.

"Now, he walks up quicker," Krajewski said. "He jogged around like a trotting horse and just stood there for a while. It's definitely helped him a lot.''

Krajewski said he remembered one time galloping Saarland at Belmont Park when he took a deep breath at the half-mile pole and didn't let it out until the quarter-mile pole. He said he didn't think much of it until jockey John Velazquez said Saarland did a similar thing in the Wood Memorial when Saarland finished fourth.

Ward: Holiday Thunder okay

Holiday Thunder, who was vanned off after winning an entry-level allowance race at Keeneland on Thursday, appeared to be okay on Friday morning, according to trainer John Ward.

Holiday Thunder was forced to steady sharply down the backside, then made a four-wide move around the turn, before rallying to win the race by 1 1/4 lengths. Upon galloping back to the winner's circle, jockey Jorge Chavez felt something amiss and jumped off. Holiday Thunder was taken off the track by ambulance.

"When he had to check so hard he wrapped himself on the top of the tendon,'' Ward said. "It looks like it's okay.''

Ward said he would most likely look for a second-level allowance race for Holiday Thunder.

Ward also said that Hero's Tribute came out of his third-place finish in a classified allowance race in good order. He was uncertain when or Hero's Tribute would run back.

Ward said Booklet, the Fountain of Youth winner, will most likely breeze Sunday or Monday at Keeneland and be pointed to the Preakness on May 19.

"I'll watch the Derby closely and see what the state of fitness of those horses is,'' Ward said.

Team U S S Tinosa waits and waits

The waiting game has begun for the connections of U S S Tinosa: owners Peter Abruzzo and Barry Thiriot and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

With $83,750 in graded stakes earnings, U S S Tinosa is 23rd on the list of contenders and not guaranteed a berth among the 20 starters for the Kentucky Derby.

"It doesn't look like anyone wants to come out," Hollendorfer said. "I don't have any other way to approach it. Otherwise, we'll have to wait until it's our turn."

Nonetheless, U S S Tinosa was scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Saturday. On Friday, U S S Tinosa worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 at Bay Meadows, his last major drill before a potential start in the Kentucky Derby.

Jockey Russell Baze, who works closely with Hollendorfer, worked

U S S Tinosa. Hollendorfer timed U S S Tinosa in 1:14.40.

"We worked really fast last week so by design we didn't set him down," Hollendorfer said, referring to a one-mile workout in 1:36.80 on April 20. "This was just a nice even breeze. Russell was very pleased with the way he worked. He had a lot left in the tank."

If plans for the Derby fall through, U S S Tinosa may go in the Hawthorne Derby May 11. The race is run on turf and would be U S S Tinosa's first start on grass since he was second in the minor Manila Stakes at Arlington Park last October.

"I don't know if we'll do that or not," Hollendorfer said. "He has good turf breeding behind him."

Hollendorfer said he is not considering the Lone Star Derby at Lone Star Park on May 11 for U S S Tinosa.

Hollendorfer is the leading trainer in northern California, but has been plagued with bad luck in recent attempts at the Kentucky Derby. In 1998, he had a leading contender in Event of the Year, who was injured eight days before the race.

In 2000, his colt Globalize was kicked by a pony two days before the Kentucky Derby and was scratched.

It may be as late as Wednesday, when entries are drawn, before it is known whether U S S Tinosa will have a chance at the Kentucky Derby.

"We're not hoping that someone has misfortune, but we'd like to run," Hollendorfer said.

Lukas can't find Derby winner, either

Testimony to just how wide open the 2002 Kentucky Derby is came from trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who will send out Proud Citizen in quest of his fifth Derby victory on Saturday.

"If someone came to me today with unlimited funds and said buy me the horse I think will win the Derby I wouldn't know where to go."

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and Mike Welsch