04/07/2003 11:00PM

Offlee Wild's work leaves trainer puzzled


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Days before the Fountain of Youth Stakes, Offlee Wild worked awfully fast at Gulfstream Park, five furlongs in 57.40 seconds, a drill that trainer T.V. Smith thought might have contributed to the colt's lackluster fourth-place finish in that race.

Smith had no desire to repeat that on Tuesday morning here at Keeneland, when Offlee Wild had his final workout for Saturday's $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, his first start since the Fountain of Youth. But what transpired, Smith admitted, was not ideal.

Offlee Wild was supposed to work five furlongs, and though he broke off at the five-furlong pole, he never really got out of a high gallop. The official time of the work was 1:03.60 - the 15th-best time of 16 at the distance for the day - but the track's clockers must have been in a charitable mood; Offlee Wild was going so slowly that Smith stopped timing the colt midway through the workout.

"This isn't gonna be 57 and change," Smith said as Offlee Wild went around the far turn.

Pat Day will ride Offlee Wild in the Blue Grass, but Willie Martinez came out to work the colt. When Offlee Wild came onto the main track - which was rated "good" after overnight rain - at around 8:30, he was fairly aggressive with Martinez, and at one point an outrider came over to give Martinez some assistance.

But once the work started, Offlee Wild never leveled off. He was as fresh after the work as he was before he went to the track.

"Well, we didn't take anything out of him," Smith said sarcastically.

Smith was not happy. He was not alarmed, either, but this was not what he wanted.

"I wanted him to go faster," he said. "I could be a little happier. He's a game player. He's done that before, then he's come back running. He has his own mind.

"He had a work once in Florida this winter where he did the same thing," Smith said, referring to Offlee Wild's three-furlong drill in 38.40 seconds on Dec. 29 at Gulfstream. "He never got into it a bit. He can be so quiet at times."

Smith said he would send Offlee Wild back to the track for gallops on both Thursday and Friday, and he might have the pace of those gallops be a bit more spirited than usual to compensate for Tuesday's work.

"I don't want to push the panic button," Smith said. "He'll walk [Wednesday], just like he always does the day after a work. When he gallops Thursday, we'll see if he's aggressive. He'll gallop Thursday and Friday, and maybe I'll take him to the track the morning of the race, too."

Smith said he would not add blinkers to Offlee Wild. The colt wore them in his first start, last October at Keeneland. He blasted out of the gate in a seven-furlong race and tired late. Since then, Smith has trained Offlee Wild to be more sensible early. He has won twice in four starts without blinkers.

"If he's by himself out there, he won't lay his body down," Smith said. "He's fine in a race, when he has some competition.

"He might be," Smith added, brainstorming for answers, "the kind of horse you have to put blinkers on to work and off to race."

The Blue Grass, at 1 1/8 miles, could have a field as small as seven and as large as nine when entries are drawn Thursday morning. The primary contenders are Peace Rules, who won the Louisiana Derby in his last start; Badge of Silver, the Risen Star Stakes winner who suffered the first loss of his career when favored in the Louisiana Derby; and Offlee Wild, who won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream before the Fountain of Youth.

Peace Rules was scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Wednesday.

Others expected for the race are Brancusi, who was third in the San Felipe Stakes last time out; Great Notion, who was second in the Rebel Stakes in his last start; and Crowned Dancer and Lots of Sizzle.

Lion Tamer is possible for the race, though trainer Todd Pletcher said he might wait for the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19.

D. Wayne Lukas said he has not decided whether to run Ten Cents a Shine in the Blue Grass or the Arkansas Derby the same day at Oaklawn Park. Ten Cents a Shine was eighth in the San Felipe in his last start, his first since being transferred to Lukas from trainer Ken McPeek by owner Ken Ramsey.

Ronny Werner, the trainer of Badge of Silver, said his colt would not work this week. He said a one-mile workout last Wednesday at Churchill Downs was sufficient.

"I want him to keep his fighting weight," Werner said.