01/06/2006 12:00AM

Pointer needs heart surgery

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Miraculous Miss, who is 3 for 3, is one of trainer Steve Klesaris's many talented 3-year-olds.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Hotstufanthensome will be among the top contenders in Sunday's $75,000 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes, but his trainer, Norman Pointer, will not be on hand for the race.

Pointer, 60, has been forced to take a leave of absence from the barn due to health issues discovered shortly after Hotstufanthensome's eighth-place finish in Calder's Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap on Dec. 3.

"Norman wasn't feeling well, so he went to the doctors for a routine physical and they told him he's going to need heart bypass surgery," said assistant trainer Kathy Dixon, who is overseeing Pointer's 21-horse stable based at Gulfstream Park. "He's got a long road ahead and I'm not sure how long he'll be away from the barn, but thank God they found the problem before it got worse and they can fix it."

Hotstufanthensome is the latest star Pointer has trained for the Running Horse Farm of owners Peter Lombardi and Les Steinger, who have had much success on the New Jersey summer and south Florida winter circuits over the past several years. A 6-year-old son of Awesome Again, Hotstufanthensome has won eight of his 22 career starts, including the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger Stakes at The Meadowlands by 14 1/2 lengths in late October.

"I don't think he liked that hard grass course over at Calder in his last start, and hopefully he'll like this one over here better," said Dixon. "One thing's for certain. He couldn't be training any better than he's training right now. He's been going super and is coming into this race a lot sharper than he did his last start at Calder."

Klesaris loaded with 3-year-olds again

Other than leading trainer Todd Pletcher, nobody had more success with 3-year-old first-time starters here last winter than Steve Klesaris. Klesaris, who is based at Gulfstream Park, sent out four debut winners here in 2005: Arch Enemy, Annette's Jet, Right Daddy, and Mighty Mecke. All four are owned by Klesaris's main client, the Puglisi Stables.

Klesaris is hoping for an encore performance here this winter. He has 16 horses stabled locally, eight more in New York, and another 30 at his main base in Fair Hill, Md.

"About half of the 16 I have here are 3-year-olds," Klesaris said. "I had more maidens when I came down last winter, but I have a few in the barn who seem to be pretty decent."

Klesaris also has some 3-year-olds who have already proven their mettle against stakes competition. That group includes Miraculous Miss, a filly who is perfect in three starts, including a victory in the Valley Stream Stakes at Aqueduct to close out her 2-year-old campaign; Diabolical, who finished second behind Barbaro in the Laurel Futurity on turf and third to Bluegrass Cat in the Remsen in his final two starts of the year; and Park Avenue Prince.

"I gave Miraculous Miss a little break after the Valley Stream, but I'm going to start cranking her up shortly," said Klesaris. "I'm pointing her for the Old Hat Stakes. Diabolical had to have some minor surgery to have a testicle removed recently, and he's still in Kentucky recuperating, but he should be back soon and will definitely run somewhere this meet. I may try Park Avenue Prince - who's already won twice and finished fourth in the Remsen - in the Holy Bull."

Horses adapt to raucous surroundings

Exercise riders have been forced to be on their guard even more than usual the past six weeks, as horses jog, gallop, and breeze while construction workers bang away at their jobs in the new grandstand only a few feet away.

Training hours were full of potentially dangerous distractions on Friday, especially after the second renovation break, when fire alarms rang, power saws buzzed, hammers banged, and debris blew over the racetrack, all to the tune of the Rolling Stones blaring over the loud speakers.

"Fortunately, all the horses seem to have adapted to the noise and commotion by now," said veteran exercise rider Bernie McSweeney. "As long as the noise is constant, they get used to it and don't seem to mind. The biggest problem usually comes if all is quiet and then somebody or something makes a loud noise. That's when you can have trouble."

The main problem, according to one exercise rider who wished to remain anonymous, is that most of the construction crews working in the grandstand have little experience around horses.

"They don't have any horse sense and don't realize the effect it can have when they start throwing things off the roof or blast loud music while we're out there on the track," he said.