09/17/2002 11:00PM

Private Emblem: Sharp and confident


BOSSIER CITY, La. - Private Emblem is on his mental game for the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Saturday.

His win in the $181,000 Albany at Saratoga last month was a shot in the arm for him, said his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

"The Albany victory against statebreds got his confidence level back," said Asmussen, who trains Private Emblem for James Cassels and Bob Zollars. "That was very important. I'm hoping to see him recreate his Arkansas Derby."

Private Emblem, who will be one of the favorites for the Super Derby, ran a career race in the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn in April. He settled about two lengths behind the pace in the 1 1/8-mile race, drove to the lead into the stretch, and won by 4 1/2 lengths.

The win earned him a trip to the Kentucky Derby. After finishing 14th in the race he traveled to his native New York to compete in a trio of statebred stakes for 3-year-olds. He finished a troubled third in the first race in the series, the $122,000 Mike Lee over seven furlongs, then second in the $143,000 New York Derby before breaking through with a 2 1/4-length win in the 1 1/8-mile Albany.

"He dominated the same horses that had been beating him in the Albany," said Asmussen, adding that physically Private Emblem is "doing extremely well. I think we're in very good shape."

Private Emblem's four wins this year have all come in stakes. He was scheduled to fly into Shreveport from Louisville, Ky., on Thursday morning, and will be ridden in the Super Derby by Donnie Meche.

Thunder Days back at two turns

Thunder Days, third last month in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga, will make his first two-turn start of the year in the Super Derby. Finishing ahead of Thunder Days in the seven-furlong King's Bishop were winner Gygistar and Boston Common, who came back to win the Grade 2 Jerome Handicap.

"I'm excited about finally getting to run him at his distance," said Ronny Werner, who trains Thunder Days for Tom Durant. "He's a better horse around two turns."

Thunder Days, who last year ran third in the Hopeful and fifth in the Champagne before closing out his season in November with a two-turn allowance win at Churchill, got a late start on his 3-year-old campaign. A foot abscess delayed his return, and as a result, he will give up two-turn experience to most of his rivals Saturday.

"We're at a little disadvantage there," said Werner. "But I've been pleased with the way he's been working, and last out he ran third in a Grade 1 that was not even his distance. Speed was holding, it was a sloppy track, and he really closed well on them. I'm excited about Saturday."

Werner said Thunder Days, a son of Thunder Gulch, was to fly to Louisiana Downs from Churchill on Thursday. He will be ridden by Mark Guidry.

Local hope defies pedigree

Glitzi's Classic, a Sky Classic half-brother to turf specialist Sarah Lane's Oates, defied his pedigree in his last start when he closed from far back to win the local prep for the Super Derby, the $50,000 Prelude, on Aug. 31.

The win was his first in four starts on the main track, and with the victory he earned a free berth into the Super Derby.

"The dirt didn't bother him at all," said Andrew Leggio Jr., who trains Glitzi's Classic. "He must have liked it. He exploded around there. He was just mowing horses over."

Leggio said he and owner Glen Warren have kept Glitzi's Classic mostly on turf during his career because of his pedigree. Sarah Lane's Oates earned $888,295 on the surface. But when no suitable turf race came up for Glitzi's Classic last month, they decided to put the colt back on dirt for the Prelude.

"It looks like he's two-dimensional, he can run on turf or dirt, and that enhances his value a little bit," said Leggio.

Russell Woolsey, who rode Glitzi's Classic for the first time Prelude, has the call in the Super Derby.