06/01/2004 11:00PM

Raving Rocket popular after impressive debut

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ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Raving Rocket had barely finished Monday's third race here when Larry Rivelli's phone began ringing. That is what happens when you train a 2-year-old who wins as impressively as Raving Rocket. On the lead from the first step, Raving Rocket easily drew away from four opponents, winning a maiden race, his career debut, by almost 10 lengths. Raving Rocket ran very fast, 52.51 seconds for 4 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track, but he did it easily.

Raving Rocket sold for $40,000 as a yearling last summer, but Rivelli said a Dare to Dream Stable partnership "paid a lot of money for him" through a private purchase this past winter. Raving Rocket's value has gone up, and now the question is whether he will be sold or retained as a racing prospect.

"That's what's being debated right now," Rivelli said.

Raving Rocket ran well in an abbreviated sprint, but Rivelli said Raving Rocket is "a bigger-type horse. He looks like the kind that can go on and do well at longer distances."

Raving Rocket is on his way. Now, Rivelli needs a spot for the crack turf sprinter Nicole's Dream, who was narrowly beaten in a Churchill Downs allowance race the last time she ran. Rivelli would prefer to keep Nicole's Dream at home, but said he will consider another trip to Churchill Downs in the next couple of weeks.

Intern will take the win

It was not a true stakes race, and he needed help from Arlington's stewards, but Intern added another stakes win to his re"sume" in the Mister Gus Stakes here Monday.

The Mister Gus, an overnight race, was worth only $42,275, but hey, Intern is an 8-year-old. And a happy one, at that.

Intern ended a 27-month losing streak last December at Hawthorne, but in his first start this year he finished eighth in a turf allowance race. On Monday, Intern was in a hard drive the length of the stretch. He fell a nose short of Stormy Impact, but Stormy Impact was disqualified for interference in the stretch.

"After the turf race, I didn't see his head at the front of the stall for a week, except when he heard the plastic rattling for his candy," said Lara Van Deren, who trains Intern.

Now, Intern thinks he's the man. "He was tired [Tuesday], but he was at the front of the stall."

Injury has Herculated uncertain

Intrinsic Worth, who won an overnight stakes race here on opening day, breezed five furlongs in 1:02 on Wednesday and could travel to Monmouth Park to make his next start. But plans are less certain for his stablemate Herculated, who is "mending a foot," according to trainer Mike Stidham.

Herculated, second in the Mervin Muniz Handicap earlier this year, ran poorly in the Dixie Handicap on the Preakness Stakes undercard. Stidham said it was unclear if Herculated had hurt his foot in the Dixie or at some point after the race.

"All I can say is that we thought going in he was in top shape," Stidham said.

Stidham said Herculated had "a pulse and heat" in his right foot. "It's just not right, right now."

Herculated remains in light training, and Intrinsic Worth is sitting on a race. The Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup on June 26 is a possibility for Intrinsic Worth, but no firm plans have yet been set.

Julie's Prize sharp in work

Trainer Tony Mitchell wanted a strong work from Julie's Prize last weekend, and he got that Saturday morning. Julie's Prize rattled off five furlongs in 58.20 seconds, an exceptionally fast breeze that was nearly three seconds quicker than the next-fastest work that morning.

"She had a bruised hoof coming out of the work before," Mitchell said, "so she needed to do something if she's going to run in the Estrapade," a $75,000 turf stakes here June 12.

Contreras still reeling from injury

The jockey Cruz Contreras, injured when his mount broke down here Monday, was still recuperating Wednesday and could not ride his scheduled mounts. But Contreras's agent, Tom Morgan, said Contreras would return to action Thursday. Contreras currently has a narrow lead in the jockey standings here.