04/01/2004 12:00AM

Puhich believes That's an Outrage belongs

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trainer Mike Puhich ventured to Kentucky in 1997 with a fringe contender for the Kentucky Derby. Stolen Gold ran a decent third in the Blue Grass Stakes behind heavily favored Pulpit that year, and Puhich judiciously decided against moving on to Churchill Downs for the Derby.

Puhich is back for another try at the Blue Grass this year with That's an Outrage, a Quiet American colt who finished fourth behind Sinister G in the March 20 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park in his last start. Puhich, based in Southern California, is fully aware that his colt will be a Blue Grass longshot, yet he still believes the colt belongs.

"He really seems to be enjoying it back in Kentucky," said Puhich, who sent That's an Outrage straight to Keeneland from Turfway. "I know the Blue Grass is coming up tough, but we're going to give it a shot."

That's an Outrage, a one-time winner from 10 starts, might carry the longest price in the Blue Grass, which will be run next Saturday. At least seven other 3-year-olds are considered likely to run in the 1 1/8-mile race: Action This Day, Birdstone, Breakaway, Limehouse, Lion Heart, Mustanfar, and Preachinatthebar.

Entries for the Blue Grass will be drawn Wednesday morning in the Keeneland paddock. This is the first year that Keeneland has opened the draw to the public.

Bejarano dives into the deep end

While 21-year-old jockey Rafael Bejarano dominated the recently ended winter-spring meet at Turfway, the obvious question that follows is how will he fare this spring against more accomplished jockeys at Keeneland and Churchill.

Steve Elzey, Bejarano's agent, said he is reminded of a similar situation about 10 years ago, when Elzey brought a young unknown jockey named Willie Martinez to Kentucky from Tampa Bay Downs. Martinez almost instantly became the leading rider at Turfway.

"It took us two or three years before Willie started getting established at the bigger tracks," said Elzey. "But once we started branching out and people started to get to know him, he took off." Martinez was the leading rider at the 1997 Keeneland spring meet.

"Who knows how we'll do this spring?" said Elzey. "The more important thing is to get him to know more owners and trainers."

Bejarano had 146 wins going into the final Turfway card Thursday night. No other jockey had more than 43 wins. Bejarano also leads the nation in victories, with his closest pursuer, Ramon Dominguez, more than 50 wins back.

'Bucky' shooting for third Elkhorn

Owner-trainer John Glenney is looking forward to closing day. Glenney enjoys the return of live racing to Keeneland as much as anyone, but Glenney has a chance to get something special done on April 23: saddle Kim Loves Bucky to a record-tying third straight victory in a Keeneland stakes.

Kim Loves Bucky, 7, will run in the $100,000 Elkhorn Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf race the gelding has won the past two years. "He's doing as good as he ever has," said Glenney. "Everything's on target for another run at it."

Only one horse in Keeneland history has ever won the same stakes three years in a row: Royal Harmony, winner of the Fayette from 1969 to 1971 for Pat Devereux Sr.

Stakes winners on undercard

Besides the Ashland, the Saturday card drew one other standout from the 2-year-old filly class of last year: Marylebone, winner of the Grade 1 Matron. She makes her seasonal debut in the seventh race, a $58,000 allowance.

Also entered on the Saturday undercard is New York Hero, winner of the 2003 Lane's End. He runs in the second race, a $67,000 allowance.

* Trainer Harvey Vanier turns 80 on April 21. Vanier, who recently moved 16 horses into Barn 18 after spending the winter in Florida, has been training since 1942. Two of his greatest career wins came in the Blue Grass, with Play Fellow in 1983 and Western Playboy in 1989.

* Two local radio shows focusing on Keeneland will air during the spring meet. A 15-minute show hosted by Pete Kules can be heard daily (even dark days) at 9:50 a.m. on 1300 AM, and a one-hour show hosted by Jude Feld and Ellis Starr airs every Saturday morning (even during the off-season) at 10 a.m. on 1580 AM. Kules hosts a two-hour Saturday show starting at 8 a.m.