01/20/2006 12:00AM

Prado will take over

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Trainer Frank Brothers has lined up Edgar Prado to ride First Samurai (above) in the Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 4.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - When jockey Jerry Bailey announced his retirement earlier this week, the news suddenly left trainer Frank Brothers without a rider for First Samurai when he opens his 2006 campaign in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 4.

Bailey had ridden First Samurai in each of his last four starts, including victories in the Grade 1 Hopeful and Champagne stakes and a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Brothers didn't have to wait long or search too far for a replacement, naming Edgar Prado to replace Bailey aboard First Samurai in the 7 1/2-furlong Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park.

"Like everyone else, I knew there was a possibility Jerry might not ride the whole winter, but I told him before the meet began that as long as he was still riding and the horse was doing well he'd have the mount," Brothers said after training hours on Friday. "At the moment, Edgar has the call for the Hutcheson and we've committed to nothing else beyond that point. In this game you never want to get too far ahead of yourself."

Earlier, Brothers accompanied First Samurai to the paddock for some schooling shortly after the track reopened following the second renovation break.

"He didn't turn a hair, and there was a lot of action going on in there at the time, especially around the walking ring," said Brothers, referring to construction crews on the job daily throughout the grandstand. "He's never usually much of a problem in the paddock, but it never hurts to school just a bit."

Brothers had also been busy Thursday morning, sending out Laity, another of his promising 3-year-olds, to work six furlongs in 1:14. Laity, a son of Pulpit, won the Cradle Stakes at River Downs by nearly a dozen lengths before closing out the year with a couple of disappointing performances in the Grade 1 Kentucky Breeders Futurity and Iroquois Stakes.

"I had him gelded after his last start and it's taken him a while to get over that," said Brothers. "He's doing well and has some talent, but he has to get himself back into the game. I've got nothing picked out for him just yet."

Prado to Peru for funeral

Prado was scheduled to work First Samurai for Brothers on Saturday but had to cancel those plans as well as all his mounts on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday's cards to return to his native Peru after learning of the death of his mother, Zenida, on Friday morning.

"My mom was an inspiration to my career," Prado said, prior to catching a flight to Peru on Friday afternoon. "And I'd advise any young rider who leaves their family behind to come to this country to ride to make sure they get back home whenever possible to visit the family.

I went back to Peru every chance I had."

Prado is scheduled to be back on the grounds to fulfill his engagements on Wednesday.

Bluegrass Cat will miss Holy Bull

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he encountered a minor bump in the road getting his top Kentucky Derby prospect Bluegrass Cat back to the races and as a result will be forced to skip the Holy Bull Stakes on Feb. 4.

"He came down with a little temperature last week and I missed a few days of training with him," said Pletcher, who intended to work Bluegrass Cat again on Saturday. "If all goes well I might bring him back in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa on Feb. 17. I prefer that race at a mile and one-sixteenth rather than bringing him back at 7 1/2 furlongs in the Hutcheson or a mile and one-eighth in the Holy Bull."

Pletcher said he will be represented in the Holy Bull by My Golden Song and perhaps Ashado's baby brother, Sunriver. He also plans to start the undefeated Keyed Entry in the Hutcheson.

Wanderin Boy sharp in comeback

Trainer Nick Zito, whose barn runneth over with top older handicap performers, got another member of the clan back on Thursday when Wanderin Boy finished second under optional claiming conditions. It was the first start for the 5-year-old Wanderin Boy since he finished a tiring seventh in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap last March.

Wanderin Boy first gave indication he could be a major player in the division last winter after posting a wire-to-wire 1 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds. Zito's strong contingent of older handicap runners also includes Andromeda's Hero, Bellamy Road, Commentator, Sun King, Sir Shackleton, Noble Causeway, and Seek Gold.

Noble Causeway, runner-up to stablemate High Fly in the 2005 Florida Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Palm Meadows on Friday as he gets closer to making his return. Noble Causeway has not started since being eased in an allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 6.

Wanderin Boy was defeated Thursday by Istan, a promising son of Gone West who was making only his second start in the U.S. and first since being turned over to trainer Bill Mott last fall. Istan began his career in France, where he won 3 of 7 starts.

* Muqbil, who finished a troubled third as the favorite in the Canadian Turf Handicap here last winter, continues his quest for his first U.S. victory in Sunday's $39,000 allowance feature. The 1 1/16-mile turf race drew a field of 10. Muqbil, who finished worse than third just once in eight starts in 2005, will face a field that includes Cottage, Brickell, Miesque's Approval, and Big Booster.

* Ominous's victory in Thursday's fourth race gave trainer Ian Wilkes his first victory in the U.S. Wilkes, who worked as an assistant to Carl Nafzger for the past 13 years, began his training career in his native Australia.