02/13/2009 12:00AM

Perkins barn may be about to get in gear

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With only eight starters to this point of the inner-track meet, trainer Ben Perkins Jr. has been conspicuous by his absence. Things may be about to change for the New Jersey-based trainer, who has won with 22-percent of his starters here the last three winters.

Perkins will be in action Sunday at Aqueduct when he sends out Wildcat Brief in the $65,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes for 3-year-old males and Uphill Wildcat, a first-time starter, in a six-furlong maiden race for 3-year-old fillies.

Perkins said his lack of participation at this meet stems from the fact he had a strong Meadowlands fall (15 for 35), and his horses simply needed some time off.

"We actually ran well at end of the Meadowlands, so we stopped on a lot of horses," Perkins said Friday. "In the summer we get up to 40 and then we cut back a little bit. When you run hard you got to give them a break. We operate with a finite amount of horses. The ones we had, we had to retool them."

Wildcat Brief is responsible for Perkins' lone win at this meet, taking a maiden race by 2 1/2 lengths on Jan. 15.

Wildcat Brief is a son of Forest Wildcat bred by Perkins' main owner, Ebby Novak's New Farm, but owned by Perkins' father, the former trainer Ben Perkins Sr. As a breeder, Novak puts many of his horses through the auction ring, and Wildcat Brief was one that Ben Perkins Sr. liked enough to plunk down $60,000 for at the 2007 Eastern fall yearling sale at Timonium.

"This was one we always liked, and we told [Novak] if he's going to sell him we were going to bid on him," Perkins Jr. said. Perkins said Novak, "liked the fact that we got him. He still has the mare and he has a 2-year-old full sister that he ended up keeping."

Asked why Novak didn't just sell his dad the horse privately, the younger Perkins said Novak wanted to get whatever was fair market value for the horse.

"He put him in the sale and said if you like him, buy him," Perkins said. "We were happy with the price we paid."

Though ready to run on a couple of occasions at 2, Wildcat Brief came up with some minor 2-year-old issues. He finally made it to the races last Dec. 27 and finished second to Z Day in a race that came back pretty quick speed-figure wise. Wildcat Brief came back 19 days later to win a maiden race in a significantly slower race.

"I was kind of surprised when the race came back so fast, because I didn't think he was all the way ready yet," Perkins said. "Second time out, I was a little worried he might have done too much in the first race, but the field didn't come up super-tough."

Uphill Wildcat is by Forest Wildcat out of the Perkins-trained mare Uphill Skier, who won first time out and who also won over the inner track.

A few years ago, a first-time starter trained by Perkins always warranted respect. In the last two years, however, he has gone 0 for 23 with first-timers, according to DRF statistics. Perkins said he has not trained his young horses as hard for their debuts as he used to, which he believes has resulted in them lasting longer.

"If a horse runs second or third first time and then wins, well, then you're more ready when you step up into allowance company," Perkins said. "It's more an idea of just trying to get more starts out of them and keep them more sound through the course of the year."

One of Perkins' warhorses, the multiple stakes-winning New Jersey-bred Joey P, is nearing a return to the races. Perkins said the 7-year-old gelding, who has won more than $936,000, could be ready to run in March.

"We'd like to get to a million dollars with him," Perkins said.

Badgett to drop appeal of positive

After initially appealing a 60-day suspension and $1,000 fine after a horse of his showed excess levels of carbon dioxide in a race it won in January, trainer Bill Badgett said he has dropped that appeal and began serving his days on Friday. He will be eligible to return to training on April 14.

Badgett was penalized after his horse Wild Conga, who won the sixth race here on Jan. 9, had a pre-race carbon dioxide level of 37.3 millimoles per liter, .3 millimoles higher than the allowable threshold. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board implemented pre-race carbon dioxide testing in 2005, the purpose being to detect the illegal practice of administering a "milkshake," a mixture of bicarbonate of soda, sugar, and electrolytes.

While Badgett maintains he did nothing wrong, he dropped the appeal because of cost and the possibility of getting more days had he lost the appeal.

"We thought we'd get it over with instead of paying $100,000 in lawyer's fees," Badgett said Friday. "It's nothing that I want to do, because we didn't do anything wrong. It's like going to jail for murder when you didn't kill anybody."

Badgett said he currently has 10 horses in training and that they will run for trainer Edward Lotruglio. That included Strummer, who was beaten a head at 4-5 in Friday's fifth race.

Hollie Hughes fails to fill

Aqueduct will conduct a live nine-race card Monday, Presidents Day, but the $65,000 Hollie Hughes Stakes won't be part of it as scheduled. The six-furlong race for New York-bred sprinters failed to attract enough entries to be carded. The racing office was hoping to fill it on Saturday and run it on Thursday.

Monday's card will be topped by a third-level allowance sprint that drew a field of six including California shipper Band of Thunder, making his first start for trainer Bruce Levine and the coupled-entry of Temecula Creek and Fujita, both making their first starts for trainer David Jacobson.

With a live card on Monday, Aqueduct will be dark Tuesday and Wednesday.