01/02/2009 12:00AM

Pompa holds on to latest prospect

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The similarities are unmistakable, although it would be unreasonable to further extrapolate. Well Positioned ran off the television screen in winning a maiden race at a nice price as a 2-year-old in New York for owner Paul Pompa Jr. and trainer Pat Reynolds, prompting a flurry of inquiries about whether they were interested in selling.

One of the would-be suitors was IEAH Stables, the ownership syndicate that bought majority interest in Big Brown in 2007 after he won big for Pompa and Reynolds. But unlike in the storybook case of Big Brown, terms were not reached, and Well Positioned remains part of the 18-horse Reynolds stable, which relocated last month from Belmont Park to Gulfstream Park.

"In the end, Mr. Pompa decided to go it alone," Reynolds said. "Obviously, it's pretty tough to duplicate the Big Brown scenario, but we're going to see what happens."

Reynolds is targeting the March 28 Florida Derby at Gulfstream as the early-season goal for Well Positioned, an Awesome Again colt purchased for $340,000 as a 2-year-old last April. In his Oct. 19 career debut at Belmont, the colt was not a factor in finishing sixth.

"The effort was a non-effort," Reynolds said. "I still can't figure it out."

But in his lone subsequent start, a Nov. 22 mile for maidens at Aqueduct, Well Positioned won by

14 1/4 lengths at 31-1, earning a 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

"That race was not a mistake," Reynolds said. "The race was visually impressive. That was him. The colt has a beautiful way of moving."

Well Positioned had his first breeze since shortly after that maiden victory when he went an easy three furlongs Friday morning at Gulfstream. Reynolds said he intends to use an entry-level allowance, "at least a mile or longer," to ease Well Positioned into his 3-year-old campaign.

Reynolds trained Big Brown for just one race, a smashing Saratoga maiden victory at 14-1 in September 2007, before Pompa sold majority interest to IEAH while retaining a 25 percent share. Big Brown went on to win the Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness for trainer Rick Dutrow.

"We've pulled one rabbit out of that hat before," Reynolds, 57, said with a grin. "Horses like this are why I'm in this game to begin with. I guess I could go work somewhere else, punch a clock, take my lunch in a box with a Power Rangers thermos. But I'd rather do this."

Dutrow brings large Florida string

Reynolds is in Barn 7 on the Gulfstream backside, while Dutrow is his next-door neighbor with a sizable string in Barn 8. Dutrow also has horses at Aqueduct and Belmont and said he soon will spill over his Florida operation to the Palm Meadows training center, located about an hour north of here.

"You miss having a horse like Big Brown around, but he's in a better place [at stud in Kentucky], so you have to be happy for him," Dutrow said early Friday while going over some business with longtime assistant Michelle Nevin. "Everything's good around here right now, a little quiet."

Dutrow said his top 3-year-old hopes are the filly Stardom Bound, most likely to be named a divisional champion later this month, and the Golden Missile colt Precious Package, a Jay Em Ess Stable homebred who earned a 91 Beyer in a Saratoga maiden win.

"It looks like we might be able to take some shots with him," Dutrow said.

Hettel a steward again

The Gulfstream hats are changing again for Bernie Hettel, effective with the start of the 79-day meet Saturday. Hettel, a longtime high-ranking racing official in Kentucky before resigning in January 2004, has been the racing operations manager at Gulfstream since April 2007 after first working here as an association steward at the 2007 meet.

Hettel is being pressed into service again by Gulfstream management as an association steward and will serve in the stand with retired Hall of Fame jockey Don Brumfield (association steward) and Kevin Scheen (state steward). While Hettel temporarily surrenders his duties in the racing department, some of his tasks will be assumed by racing secretary Doug Bredar.

Leparoux joins Gulfstream jockey colony

Julien Leparoux and agent Steve Bass were making rounds Friday morning in the Gulfstream stable area while looking forward to what they hope will be another successful new venture. This is the first Gulfstream meet for Leparoux, the 25-year-old Frenchman whose mounts have averaged more than $12 million in earnings during his first three full years of riding in the United States.

Bass said the business he and Leparoux have lined up for the first few days of the meet is "solid" and that they are trying to ride not only for longtime Kentucky clients but also for East Coast trainers such as Michael Matz, Graham Motion, and Christophe Clement.

"We'd like to reach out to as many folks as possible," Bass said.