05/17/2007 11:00PM

Principle Secret set to fulfill potential

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PHOENIX - By the early fall of last year you could certainly understand the enthusiasm trainer Christopher Paasch had for his 2-year-old Principle Secret, who runs Sunday at Hollywood Park in the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera Memorial.

After all, Principle Secret, a son of Sea of Secrets, had shown enormous promise, having romped at Del Mar in his first two starts, including the Grade 2 Best Pal, in which he easily beat Great Hunter and Stormello. Those two would go on to win Grade 1 races later in 2006 (Great Hunter the Breeders' Futurity, Stormello the Hollywood Futurity).

Next came a tearjerker of a loss to Stormello in the Grade 2 Norfolk. Principle Secret set the pace under pressure in the 1 1/16-mile race, and seemed to put the race away when he opened up by 1 1/2 lengths in midstretch. But Stormello, a determined runner to say the least, was able to reel him in and nip him by a neck.

Then things went south in a hurry for Principle Secret. He tried the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and it was a disaster. He ran into the teeth of a hot duel and paid the price, eventually being eased to finish last of 14.

"He came back with a cut on his rear hind leg, in the fleshy area above his hock, inside between the legs," said Paasch. "It required eight stitches. I think he got kicked going to the gate. He was sore for quite a while."

Principle Secret returned in the Hollywood Futurity and finished eighth, beaten four lengths.

"He had a 104-degree temperature the following morning," Paasch said. "I gave him some time and brought him back this spring. I just kept him in real light training. I tack-walked him for 60 days."

Paasch's move may end up paying dividends in the Barrera Memorial, run at seven furlongs.

Principle Secret returned April 8 at Santa Anita, in the San Pedro at 6o1/2 furlongs. Despite his inactivity and getting away poorly, Principle Secret flew home to be a fast-closing second to the very talented Time to Fly, whom he must deal with again in the Barrera. Principle Secret worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Hollywood last Saturday and Alex Solis, aboard for his four best races, including the San Pedro, rides again.

"He went the first eighth in 13 and change and the rider let him out a little down the lane," said Paasch of the work. "He was a little unlucky in the San Pedro. He was four wide on the turn, and the other horse got the trip. Still, he got the highest Beyer of his life [99] in the race. If he steps it up two or three lengths, he will be awful hard to beat."

Absolutely.

Homebreds sheikh's salvation?

In Sheikh Mohammed al -Maktoum's unrelenting goal to win the Kentucky Derby, there has been an interesting twist. While a Godolphin or Darley runner has yet to take the roses, or really even threaten for that matter, three of the last four winners were products of sires standing at the sheikh's Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky. Derby heroes Smarty Jones (Elusive Quality), Giacomo (Holy Bull) and now Street Sense (Street Cry) were all sired by his farm's stallions. New sire Bernardini, with his proven ontrack power and royal pedigree, could have a say some day as well.

The irony of this is that while the sheikh has been buying up horses in an attempt to get the roses, maybe his best chance will actually come from a homebred. Maybe it's a bit like the New York Yankees - attempts to buy titles haven't worked so well. People forget the Yankee glory years really came with a foundation of home-grown stars such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Bernie Williams, and Andy Pettitte.

The sheikh may already have the pieces in place for a Derby win - a dam from his wealth of broodmare strength, and sires proven capable of getting a Derby winner. Maybe it's the farm system that will get the boys in blue their roses and not the free-agent market.

'Acorn' good synthetic candidate

On the Acorn, proven to be the best turf stayer in Southern California just months after being a claimer, may try even bigger game. Winner of the San Juan Capistrano at Santa Anita and the Jim Murray at Hollywood, he is expected to be nominated to the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on June 30.

There are already numerous examples of horses moving from the turf to the Cushion Track and thriving. Considering his ultra-sharp form, On the Acorn is certainly eligible to be scary even if Lava Man and Molengao make their expected appearances in the 10-furlong race.