01/31/2008 12:00AM

Pino looks for another path to Derby

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Having experienced the thrill and agony of finishing second in the Kentucky Derby last year, jockey Mario Pino would love another opportunity to try again.

That's why Pino is excited to drive up to New York from Maryland on Saturday to ride Cave's Valley in the $100,000 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct. It will be the second time this week that Pino has driven from Maryland to get on Cave's Valley, a Florida-bred son of Stephen Got Even. On Tuesday, he worked Cave's Valley a half-mile in 48.67 seconds over the inner track.

"He's a very talented horse," Pino said Thursday by phone from Maryland. "Very laid-back kind of horse; he's progressing. You know he has talent; he's got to go forward again. I think he worked well. I think Michael Trombetta is a good trainer and the owners, they used to own Spectacular Bid, so they know something about a good horse."

Owned by Harry and Tom Meyerhoff, Cave's Valley won his first three starts before finishing seventh in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs on Dec. 7. Trombetta believes Cave's Valley didn't handle the track that night. That's why he wanted the horse to work over the inner track before the race.

"I told Mike he bounced right over it just like he ran at Delaware," Pino said.

Pino rode Cave's Valley in the $101,000 Dover Stakes at Delaware on Oct. 20, the colt's second stakes win over that surface. Cave's Valley got loose on the lead that day and defeated four rivals, including Atoned, who came back to run second in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes.

Ramon Dominguez has ridden Cave's Valley in his three other starts, but is in Florida on Saturday to ride in the Donn Handicap. Dominguez also is the regular rider of Giant Moon, who is undefeated in four starts and is pointing to the Gotham here on March 8.

Last year at this time, Pino was the regular rider of Hard Spun, who won the Lanes' End Stakes in late March and would run second to Street Sense in the Kentucky Derby.

"The feeling of almost winning, you crave to get back to it, that's why I'm getting a little excited to ride this colt and see if he could get to that level," Pino said. "You never know, it's still early. Mike thinks he's that way. Everything is a stepping-stone; this is another step."

Pino is taking another step up on the list of all-time winningest riders. Last year, he became the 15th rider to pass the 6,000-win plateau. At 6,027 wins (through Wednesday), Pino is five behind John Longden for 14th all-time. Pino has four mounts here Saturday and is expected to ride here Sunday as well.

Olivine returns to inner track

Trainer David Donk hopes Olivine still has an affinity for the inner track. If she does, she could offer plenty of value in Saturday's $65,000 Ride Sally Stakes for 4-year-old fillies at one mile.

Olivine won a maiden race and the Busher Stakes here last winter. But she didn't do nearly as well away from Aqueduct and was turned out after two poor efforts in restricted stakes last summer at Saratoga.

"We just gave her a break after a long grind," Donk said. "I don't have too many that can run over the inner. I knew she was one of them. She's done okay, she's ready to go."

The Ride Sally brings together several horses who each won an allowance race last out. Miss Buddhafull won a first-level allowance over the inner track on Jan. 9. Runway Rosie wheels back just eight days after taking a second-level allowance. This will be her third race in three weeks.

Try to Remember, trained by Graham Motion, ships in after winning an allowance at Philadelphia Park. Dinner Break and Bold Assurance are part of an uncoupled entry for trainer Mark Hennig.

Stage Luck drills for Next Move

Stage Luck, winner of the Affectionately Handicap here on Jan. 12, worked five furlongs in 1:03.94 on Thursday morning over Belmont Park's training track. She is expected to skip the Rare Treat Handicap on Feb. 23 and instead point to the Grade 3, $100,000 Next Move Handicap on March 29.

"She's not the kind of horse you can come back right away with, she needs a little more spacing between races," said trainer Tom Albertrani, who noted that he skipped two opportunities to run in overnight stakes this weekend. "She's doing fine, you just can't run her too close."

After Stage Luck finished third in her debut, Albertrani put blinkers on her and she reeled off three consecutive victories, including a neck decision in the Affectionately. A daughter of Unbridled's Song, Stage Luck is owned by Darley Stable, who purchased her at auction for $1.6 million.

Nite Light to Campbell Handicap

Nite Light, who has also won three consecutive races, including the Gallant Fox Handicap here on Dec. 29, is being pointed to the $95,000 John Campbell Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 16.

"It's a mile and an eighth and we get a little more ground than the Ground Storm here" on Feb. 6, said Seth Benzel, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "We get a little more distance and we'll see how he handles going down there. We've had horses that ran well down there in that event, so we look forward to going back."

Nite Light is a son of Thunder Gulch out of the Grade 1-winning mare Lite Light. He has won two marathon stakes and his connections are already thinking about the newly created Breeders' Cup Dirt Marathon, scheduled for 1 1/2 miles in late October.