06/18/2009 12:00AM

Presents for Berti can do better


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Before a promising gray 3-year-old named Presents for Berti made his last start at Churchill Downs, his camp was full of optimism.

"I was thinking, boy, we're really going to win this one," said Richard Klein, who owns the gelding with his parents, Bert and Elaine. "But he pretty much lost his race out of the gate, so obviously we were pretty disappointed."

Presents for Berti, with Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride, is part of a large cast entered in the lone allowance on an 11-race Saturday card at Churchill. After finishing a sharp second to Seaspeak in his April 29 comeback, Presents for Berti had no mishap following a sluggish start and wound up fifth in his only subsequent outing on May 29.

"We were expecting a big race in his second start off a layoff, and it just didn't happen," said Klein. "But hopefully he'll put it all back together Saturday."

Presents for Berti, trained by Helen Pitts, is one of the probable favorites in the 10th race, a $50,200, first-level allowance scheduled for 1o1/16 miles on the turf. Hype, Victory Notion, Constabulary, and Blue Whistler are other logical contenders in what shapes up as a very well-matched field of 12, which includes one main-track-only designee.

Presents for Berti is one of about 35 horses, including unstarted 2-year-olds, that the Kleins, the leading owners at the 2006 Churchill fall meet, currently have split among several trainers. They have purposely cut back on their Thoroughbred holdings over the last year or so, reducing their broodmare band from 24 to 15.

"Like everybody else, we've been reevaluating our program and reducing our numbers," said Klein. "We're not looking at buying at the sales, and we haven't claimed a horse in well over a year."

With the Kentucky racing industry in an economic crisis and its advocates seeking legislation to secure alternative gaming at racetracks, the Kleins are taking a cautious approach to the business of racing.

"I personally think slots are a short-term fix, but that's another story," said Klein. "Not just in Kentucky, but throughout the entire American racing industry, there are major issues that we need to get through."

First post Saturday is 12:45 p.m. Eastern. After the Sunday card, Churchill goes dark for three days before racing resumes Thursday. The next stakes here is the $100,000 Debutante Stakes on June 27.