02/21/2007 12:00AM

Sanders has seen classic stock before

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Teuflesberg, a $9,000 purchase, captures the Southwest at Oaklawn on Monday. His trainer, Jamie Sanders, had been an exercise rider for the colt's dam.

In the winner's circle following the $250,000 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Monday, Jamie Sanders looked like the happiest person in the world. And why not? She trains Teuflesberg, the Southwest winner, and owns 25 percent of the colt.

"I was really happy," she said Wednesday.

Teuflesberg will now head down the trail to the May 5 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, with his next stop the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 17. Sanders has never run a horse in the Derby as a trainer. But, partner, this ain't her first rodeo.

Before acquiring her training license 1 1/2 years ago, Sanders was considered one of the sport's best exercise riders. She worked for trainer Nick Zito for parts of 15 years, including 11 straight. During that time, Sanders worked or galloped many of Zito's best runners, including Albert the Great, Stephen Got Even, and Storm Song, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in 1996. She was aboard Strike the Gold for workouts before his Derby victory in 1991, and Louis Quatorze before his Preakness win in 1996.

"She's a tremendous horsewoman," Zito said Wednesday.

She also has a good memory. One of the fillies Sanders got on for Zito several years ago was St. Michele, a daughter of Devil's Bag whose career was cut short by injury.

"She didn't get a chance to prove how good she was," Sanders said. At a Kentucky sale in October 2005, while shopping for her newly formed stable, Sanders looked at a yearling colt out of St. Michele, by Johannesburg.

"I didn't think we had a chance to get him," she said. "Our budget was $30,000. But it was the last day of the sale, and it was pouring rain. Everybody left. He was one of the last ones through the ring. And there was no reserve on him."

Sanders bought him, in partnership with her fiance, Donnie Kelly, and family friend Gary Longsdon, for $9,000. Since then, Teuflesberg has won 4 times in 13 starts and has earned more than $300,000. And because of other precocious horses like Pro Pink, Sanders has seen her business blossom.

"I have 23 2-year-olds, and 23 older horses," she said.

Longsdon, who owns 50 percent of Teuflesberg, "basically is responsible for getting me hooked on the races," Sanders said.

"Our family knew his," said Sanders, who grew up in Brownsville, Ky. "He owned horses. I used to see the win pictures at his house."

Sanders still gets on her horses in the morning. But now her responsibilities do not end when she takes off the tack. She said she has incorporated some of the lessons learned from Zito, a two-time Derby winner, into her program.

"What's important to us, and is important to Nick, is a good feed program," Sanders said. "Also, every horse is different. You can't treat every one the same. Teuflesberg has to go to the track as much as possible. He thrives on it. He can't wait to go out there. He goes to the track even on the day he races. That's one of the things Nick does, take them to the track in the morning on the day of a race."

In the Southwest, Sanders made jockey Stewart Elliott part of the team because, she said, Teuflesberg "has the same style as Smarty Jones," whom Elliott rode to a Derby win in 2004.

"He's an excellent judge of pace," Sanders said. "And I know Stewart will stick with him the whole way."

She's got Zito in her corner, too.

"Unless I'm in the same race," Zito said, "I go nuts when she wins. I have nothing but admiration for her. She's not afraid. She knows people obsess over win percentages, but you can't win some of these big races if you worry about percentages and play it close to the vest. As far as I'm concerned, when she wins, we win. Now I know what Rick Pitino says he feels like when Billy Donovan does well. It's a wonderful feeling."

In other Derby developments:

* Trainer Barclay Tagg on Wednesday said that "as of right now" Nobiz Like Shobiz is scheduled to run in the Grade 2, $350,000 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on March 3, but he left open the possibility of waiting a week for the Grade 2, $600,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds March 10. "I've got that race if I need it, but I'd prefer to run in the Fountain of Youth," Tagg said. Nobiz Like Shobiz, who most recently won the Holy Bull Stakes, is scheduled to work at Gulfstream on Friday.

* The status of Nobiz Like Shobiz is being watched intently by trainer Mike Gorham, who on Wednesday said Swale Stakes winner Adore the Gold would go in the Fountain of Youth. Adore the Gold was ridden in his last start by Cornelio Velasquez, who also rides Nobiz Like Shobiz. If Nobiz Like Shobiz goes to New Orleans, Velasquez will ride Adore the Gold. If Nobiz Like Shobiz stays in Florida, Adore the Gold will need a new rider.

* Also confirmed for the Fountain of Youth is Buffalo Man, trainer Cam Gambolati said. He is scheduled to work at Gulfstream on Sunday, with Edgar Prado up.

* Bill Currin, the trainer and co-owner of Stormello, said he is having trouble finding a suitable flight for his colt from California to Florida for the Fountain of Youth. If Stormello ends up not going there, he could run March 10 in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows, Currin said.

* Currin ruled out the Grade 2, $200,000 Robert Lewis Memorial Stakes at Santa Anita on March 3, even though two highly ranked runners are out of it. Belgravia has an infection, and it is not known when he will be able to race again, trainer Patrick Biancone said. Also, vibes are bad on Exhale. He reportedly did not work well on Sunday at Hollywood Park and he has not been seen on the track since. The jockey most likely to ride him in the Lewis is now searching for another mount. Trainer John Sadler has not responded to messages seeking clarification of Exhale's status. Exhale has been dropped from .

* There is a slight chance that the Sham Stakes winner, Ravel, will make his next in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 17 at Santa Anita, but he most likely will await the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby April 7, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

* Notional, the Risen Star Stakes winner, is also possible for the San Felipe, but most likely will await the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on March 31, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

* Curlin will make his next start in a stakes race, but trainer Steve Asmussen said he is not sure which spot to choose. Zanjero, another Asmussen trainee, is scheduled to run in the Louisiana Derby. Assuming Asmussen wants to keep them apart, logical alternatives for Curlin are the Rebel, or the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park March 24.

Who's hot: There are four newcomers to the Derby Watch top 25 list this week, including Teuflesberg, the upset winner of Monday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. He is 50-1 on the future line set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper.

The other three newcomers are each pegged at 40-1 by Watchmaker.

Cobalt Blue returned from a lengthy layoff to beat allowance runners last week at Santa Anita. He gives trainer Doug O'Neill four horses in the top 25. Curlin, a fast debut maiden winner at Gulfstream, is expected to be fast-tracked to stakes company for his next start by trainer Steve Asmussen, who took over from Helen Pitts as Curlin's trainer after the colt was sold privately. Soaring By, yet another prospect for Todd Pletcher, was second in a fast allowance sprint at Gulfstream in his last start and also will move to stakes company next time.

Who's not: Four horses were removed from last week's list. There is so much doubt regarding the status of Exhale, a fast maiden winner at Santa Anita, that the Derby Watch committee could not in good conscience keep him on the list.

Forty Grams was removed after finishing third in the Southwest. He can make a good living avoiding the division's elite. Pletcher trainees Meritocracy and Out of Gwedda both were dropped; neither raced, but others were adjudged as better prospects this week.

On the bubble: Officer Rocket rallied gamely to finish second in the Southwest. If anyone above him takes a misstep in the next week, he'll be in the top 25.- Jay Privman