02/11/2009 1:00AM

Only five line up vs. Tale of Ekati


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The $150,000 Richter Scale was switched from a handicap to a stakes for the first time this season, but one thing that hasn't changed since last winter is the size of the starting lineup for the Grade 2 dash.

As was the case in 2008, when the imposing presence of Commentator limited the field to just six runners, only six horses passed the entry box when entries were drawn early Wednesday afternoon for Saturday's seven-furlong Richter Scale.

There may be no Commentators in this year's lineup, but there is the multiple Grade 1 winner Tale of Ekati, who will be making his first start since being awarded the victory by a stewards' disqualification in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 29. Tale of Ekati could have his hands full in his return with the red-hot Ikigai, who has won 5 of his last 6 starts, including the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector Handicap here on Jan. 17.

Tale of Ekati will break from post position 2 under Edgar Prado in his 2009 debut. Ikigai drew post 5 and will again have the services of Jermaine Bridgmohan.

The remainder of the field include Ling Ling Qi, Bold Start, Now a Victor, and How's Your Halo. Ling Ling Qi will be making his first start since being switched from trainer Ken McPeek's barn to Todd Pletcher less than two weeks ago. McPeek will still be represented in the Richter Scale by the stakes-placed Bold Start.

Maker looking to test Jack Spratt

The Richter Scale is one of two stakes on Saturday's program, which will also feature the $125,000 Hallandale Beach for 3-year-olds on the turf. The race has attracted the first five finishers from the one-mile Dania Beach Stakes, which was won by Jack Spratt four weeks earlier. Only this time, Jack Spratt is entered for the main track only.

Trainer Mike Maker has decided to test the potential Kentucky Derby waters with the stretch-running Jack Spratt, whose first six career starts have come either on grass or artificial surfaces. If rain does not wash the Hallandale Beach off the turf, Jack Spratt will await the one-mile Fountain of Youth on Feb. 28. The weather forecast calls for only a 10 percent chance of rain here Saturday.

"You absolutely have to try it with a 3-year-old this time of year," said Maker who is off to a good start with six wins at the meet. "The way he ran last time looked like he could be that kind of horse."

If Jack Spratt goes in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, it would create a conflict for jockey Julien Leparoux, who is also the regular rider for the highly regarded 3-year-old prospect Capt. Candyman Can. Trainer Ian Wilkes also has the Fountain of Youth penciled in for Capt. Candyman Can's next start.

Tagg looking for two-turn spot

While the Fountain of Youth is likely to gain a prospective starter in Jack Spratt, there is also a good chance it will lose another. Trainer Barclay Tagg is strongly considering the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby as the next option for Hello Broadway, who finished a game second behind Capt. Candyman Can when making his 3-year-old debut in the seven-furlong Hutcheson.

"Nothing is definite at the moment, but right now I'm probably leaning towards going to Tampa with Hello Broadway just because I think he needs to make his next start around two turns," Tagg explained. "All his races thus far have been one turn."

Tagg won the 2008 Tampa Bay Derby with Big Truck

Tagg also has another strong bullet in the barn to fire in the coming weeks with the veteran Dry Martini, who turned in one of the more impressive works of the meet here Wednesday, going five furlongs in 59.18 seconds under exercise rider Kristin Troxell. Dry Martini completed his final eighth-mile in 11.41 seconds into the teeth of a strong wind blowing up the stretch at the time.

Dry Martini, who rallied from far back to finish second in the Sunshine Millions Classic, is expected to make his next start in the New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on March 14.

"He turned in a nice effort here and we think he'll really like the longer stretch in New Orleans," said assistant trainer Robin Smullen, who was on hand to oversee the work with Tagg busy checking out the troops stabled at Palm Meadows on Wednesday morning. "He's just the neatest and easiest horse to be around, everybody in the barn loves him, and we're all glad to have him back with us again."

Dry Martini spent a portion of his 2007 campaign with Tagg. He was campaigned last year by Bill Turner Jr. Dry Martini is owned by his breeder, Carol Nyren, who was on hand Wednesday to watch her horse work.