04/29/2005 12:00AM

Rain reduces intensity of exercise

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Sloppy conditions limit Bellamy Road to a slow gallop under Carlos Correa on Friday morning.

Weather: Raining, Temp. 49
Track: Sloppy

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Nick Zito and Bobby Frankel are not only excellent horsemen, they obviously know a little something about the weather, too. Both called audibles on Thursday, moving scheduled works for Andromeda's Hero and High Limit up 24 hours. They looked like geniuses Friday morning when rain fell both prior to and during training hours, leaving the Churchill Downs racetrack covered in slop.

As a result of the wet track, activity for Kentucky Derby contenders here Friday was limited almost exclusively to routine gallops, excluding, of course, Afleet Alex, whose training regime is anything but routine. The most significant work on Friday was turned in by Rugula, a likely starter in next Friday's Kentucky Oaks.

It was interesting to note the different philosophies employed by some of the key players in this year's Derby due to the unsavory weather and Friday's wet track conditions.

Todd Pletcher, for instance, stuck to his usual routine, sending out his three prospective Derby starters - Bandini, Flower Alley, and Coin Silver - well before sunrise to gallop a fairly vigorous 1 1/2 miles. Zito again handicapped the weather nicely, holding his Derby trio of Bellamy Road, Noble Causeway, and High Fly back until after 7:15 a.m., which allowed them to miss the heavy showers that fell not long after the racetrack opened at 6. He also backed off a bit on their regular routines, restricting Bellamy Road and Noble Causeway to slow gallops and High Fly to a 1 1/4-mile jog alongside a pony.

Then there was Afleet Alex, who went out both early and late, before and after the rain, to jog two miles in the dark, then jogged another mile and galloped nine furlongs following the renovation break.

Bandini was eager to go through his paces for the second consecutive morning, although he was not quite as playful upon breaking off as he was Thursday, when he kicked and bucked before leveling out into a strong gallop. He did appear to throw in a couple of bucks just for good measure while splashing his way past the eighth pole.

Flower Alley also appears to be training well into the Derby, although he went along at a more casual pace Friday after breezing at better than a two-minute clip for a mile the previous morning.

Bellamy Road was the second of Zito's three Derby horses to go to the track, and the dark bay, almost black colt continues to look every bit the part of the race favorite. With regular exercise rider Carlos Correa obviously under instructions to keep him from doing too much over the wet track, Bellamy Road tucked his head and went along willingly upon breaking off nearing the wire, although he did make a few futile attempts to stretch his legs just a bit more during the second half of his impressive-looking gallop.

High Fly needed not one but two ponies to complete his 1 1/4-mile jog after being handed off by his regular pony rider to the outrider when apparently becoming a little too tough to handle near the five-furlong pole.

After working Tuesday, walking Wednesday, and jogging once around Thursday, Afleet Alex returned to his now familiar two-a-day training sessions. Perhaps it was the wet track, but Afleet Alex did not travel nearly as fluidly as either Bellamy Road or Bandini when he was finally allowed to break away from the pony and gallop along on his own. But apparently, that factor has little bearing once he's allowed to really extend himself for either his workouts or on race day.

Rugula was extremely impressive in her final Oaks prep. Working over a track that caused most horses to struggle to break 1:03 for five furlongs, Rugula went in fractions of 11.87, 24.26, 36.28, and 48.12 seconds before completing five-eighths in 1:00.44. She galloped out in 1:14.69 while given one tap of the stick near the eighth pole by jockey Greta Kuntzweiler, who will be aboard in the Oaks.