03/09/2007 1:00AM

Premium Tap gets fit in Saudi Arabia


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer John Kimmel is having himself a ball and racking up the frequent flyer miles to boot with Premium Tap, who is in Saudi Arabia while continuing to prepare for the $6 million Dubai World Cup on March 31.

Premium Tap was sold privately to King Abdullah bin Aziz and sons of Saudi Arabia shortly after closing out his 2006 campaign with an easy victory in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap, but he remains in Kimmel's care. Premium Tap's first major objective for his new connections was the King's Cup in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 16, a race at about 1o1/2 miles that he won by a comfortable 2 3/4 lengths.

"Going over to Saudi Arabia for the King's Cup was fun," Kimmel said. "The horse ran well and I thought he did it pretty easily. He was pretty fatigued after his races in both the Breeders' Cup and Clark, but he has bounced right back after this last one and we had to send him right back to the track to blow off some energy and prevent him from hurting himself."

Premium Tap has remained in Saudi Arabia to train up to the Dubai World Cup. Kimmel said he will work this weekend with a stable rider aboard but that he and jockey Kent Desormeaux will fly to Saudi Arabia for what he described as Premium Tap's last "major breeze" on Saturday.

"One thing that I think will be to his advantage is that the track he's training on in Saudi Arabia may be the best in the world," said Kimmel. "It's very kind and he is so happy on it. He couldn't be doing better. This whole experience has been really exciting, especially when you know you're going to be one of the major players in the richest race in the world."

To win the World Cup, Premium Tap will have to improve upon his third-place finish behind Invasor in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Invasor gets first of two workouts

Invasor, the reigning Horse of the Year, has continued to train well since his game victory in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 3, working five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Palm Meadows training center on Friday. It was his first recorded work in nearly two weeks.

"He gets a lot out of his gallops; he goes so strong," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin while watching Invasor gallop 1 1/2 miles at nearly a two-minute clip on Thursday. "I didn't want to cram three works into him in a short period so I just spaced his last two works out a little bit and that should set him up nicely for his final work here next weekend."

Miesque's Appeal on track for Dubai

Another horse expected to compete in Dubai on World Cup Day is Eclipse Award winner Miesque's Approval, who is being pointed for the Duty Duty Free Stakes by trainer Marty Wolfson. Miesque's Approval is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Canadian Turf Handicap here on Feb. 3 in his only start since winning the Breeders' Cup Mile three months earlier.

"I've been working him regularly but well before dawn, so the clockers can't always see him out there," said Wolfson. "He's scheduled to work again on Sunday. Right now the plan is to send him to Dubai, after which he'll probably be sold. If that's the case it is highly unlucky he'll be back to race here again."

Chelokee may run in Florida Derby

Trainer Michael Matz, who will send out Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Round Pond as the prohibitive favorite in Sunday's Grade 2 Rampart Handicap, said the $1 million Florida Derby on March 31 remains among the possible options for Chelokee, a visually impressive winner of an entry-level allowance here last Saturday.

"We'll have to try some kind of stakes with him next to see where he fits with the other 3-year-olds," said Matz while showing off the striking-looking Chelokee in his stall at Palm Meadows on Thursday. "For him to finish the way he did going a mile and one-eighth over a speed-favoring track the other day was pretty impressive. The problem is he's got no graded stakes money, so if we're thinking about the Kentucky Derby that has to be a major consideration and the Florida Derby and Wood would be high on the list."

Matz won the 2006 Florida Derby with Barbaro, who went on to capture the Kentucky Derby.

"The advantages of the Florida Derby are the big purse and the fact it's here and he's already run and won over the track," said Matz. "The disadvantages would be the fact it comes up a little quick, I'd rather he'd have five weeks than four to his next start, and that if you draw an outside post you can be in big trouble here."

Pletcher catches up to assistant

Todd Pletcher finally tied his assistant Anthony Sciametta for the lead in the trainer standings following Distorted Reality's victory in Thursday's fourth race. Both Pletcher and Sciametta have 20 victories during the meet.

Sciametta was the trainer of record for the Pletcher barn during the opening five weeks of the meet while the boss served out the remainder of a 45-day suspension that began in New York the final week of December.