06/18/2002 11:00PM

Puck has the talent; can he show it in stakes?


MIAMI - Puck will be among the favorites in Saturday's $100,000 Unbridled Stakes. But even his trainer, Bill White, is uncertain which Puck will show up for the race. Will it be the one who won his maiden and an entry-level allowance by a combined 20 lengths, or the one who was outfinished by longshot Rocker as the 1-10 favorite in the Primal Stakes here last month?

"It's hard to figure this horse or make any long-range plans for him, since he'll run a monster race and then keeps stubbing his toe," said White. "And our biggest concern coming into the Unbridled is that he's still winless at Calder."

Puck has certainly shown flashes of brilliance, enough so that he ran in the Grade 1 Florida Derby over the winter. He certainly was expected to handle his five seemingly overmatched rivals in the Primal.

"Actually, I don't think he ran that disappointing a race in his last start," said White. "It's just that Rocker ran far beyond anything I or maybe anybody else was expecting. But that does make him zero for three over this track, with two of those tries coming against maiden company and the third in a race that really seemed to have his name written all over it."

White said he considered sending Puck, a son of Mr. Greeley, out of town rather than in the Unbridled, but White found nothing suitable elsewhere and the 1 1/16-mile Unbridled fits Puck perfectly.

"The race is convenient and will give us one more chance to see if it's just simply a matter of this track not bringing out the best in him," said White. "The clockers caught him working five furlongs in 1:01 and galloping out six in 1:13 last week. And when Cornelio [Velasquez] jumped off he told me there was little more we could do to make him any better going into the race."

Rocker is expected to be among Puck's competition in the Unbridled, along with Kingmaker, Mountain Forum, and Thiscannonsloaded.

Velasquez on record pace

Cornelio Velasquez, a 33-year-old native of Panama, has made a shambles of the race for the riding title here and is on pace to eclipse the single-season Calder win mark of 193, established by Walter Guerra in 1979.

Velasquez, the defending Calder champion, posted a hat trick on Tuesday, and has now won 64 races during the first 40 days of the meet, more than twice as many as his nearest rivals, Omar Camejo and M.R. Cruz. Velasquez has won with an incredible 30 percent of his mounts during the meet.

Tour of the Cat to take shot

Tour of the Cat's nose victory over Built Up in Tuesday's $27,917 Exclusive Praline Handicap earned him a berth in the $250,000 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 13.

Tour of the Cat posted a career best 102 Beyer Speed Figure capturing the Naked Greed Stakes only nine days earlier, and came right back on short rest to turn back Built Up in the six-furlong Exclusive Praline.

"I knew that other horse was coming, but my horse really didn't have a chance to see him until very late," said Abad Cabassa Jr., who rides Tour of the Cat for trainer Myra Mora. "To tell you the truth I thought we were probably beat near the end, but he just dug in and really showed how game he can be."

Tour of the Cat, who had never run six furlongs prior to Tuesday, covered the distance in 1:10.17 over a track that had quickened up following a couple of light showers earlier in the day.

"I guess we're going to go for the Smile Sprint now," said Mora. "He's stabled here and doing well, so we've got to try it. I'm not sure who is coming down for the race but they've got to be at a bit of a disadvantage shipping in here."

Fast colt, fast track

An indication of just how fast the racetrack was playing Tuesday came one race before the Exclusive Praline, when Hear No Evil, a 2-year-old colt by Carson City, equaled the 5 1/2-furlong track record of 1:04.49 in his 9 1/2-length victory in an allowance dash. The performance likely established Hear No Evil as the one to beat in the $100,000 Criterium Stakes on July 6.

Hear No Evil has now won his last two starts after being upset as the 4-5 favorite in his career debut on May 11. He is trained by James Hatchett for his owner-breeder, the Jacks or Better Farm.

Heavenly Miss, the lone filly in the race, finished third in what figures to serve as a prep for the $100,000 J j'sdream Stakes on June 29.

* A 10 percent purse increase that went into effect last Friday has brought the daily average purse distribution to $182,000 - $226,000 including stakes and breeders' enhancement funds.