07/11/2006 11:00PM

Sharp Humor resumes training post-surgery

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sharp Humor, the Florida Derby runner-up who suffered a knee injury when finishing 19th in the Kentucky Derby, recently returned to training at Churchill Downs after undergoing what trainer Dale Romans termed a successful surgery and rehabilitation.

"He's been back about five days," Romans said Wednesday morning at Churchill. "We're just getting going with him. He's jogging a couple of miles in the morning. He's doing good."

Sharp Humor, a New York-bred Distorted Humor colt owned in partnership by Purdedel Stable and WinStar Farm, finished a close second to Barbaro in the April 1 Florida Derby but faded badly when apparently incurring his injury in their next meeting, the May 6 Kentucky Derby won by Barbaro.

Five days after the Derby, Sharp Humor had a small chip removed from his left knee at the Rood and Riddle equine clinic in Lexington. After a recovery period of about 30 days, he was sent to the Kesmark Equine Rehabilitation Center in Lexington, where he underwent therapeutic swimming for about three weeks before returning to Churchill, said Romans.

Flint raves about Unbridled Express

Bernie Flint might have been tempted to try Unbridled Express against the best 2-year-olds on the grounds last Saturday in the Bashford Manor Stakes, "but I don't ever run maidens in stakes," he said.

After Sunday, Unbridled Express was no longer a maiden. The Unbridled's Song colt, owned by Conway-Hillerich Racing and LTB Inc., won a six-furlong maiden race by four lengths in a swift 1:09.23 to earn a 90 Beyer Speed Figure.

Flint said Wednesday that he is inclined to race Unbridled Express next in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sanford Stakes on July 27, the second day of the Saratoga meet. The Sanford is run at six furlongs.

"He might be the best horse I've ever touched," said Flint, a trainer for 30 years.

Unbridled Express was defeated in his first start before making a winning return Sunday.

"Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know, but we're extremely excited about this colt," said Flint, who co-bred and raised the colt on his farm in Fern Creek, on the outskirts of Louisville. "I think if the Breeders' Cup [Juvenile] was run in two weeks, we'd be the favorite, and we'd win. That's how much I think of this colt."

Rich in Spirit tops Locust Grove cast

The final major stakes of the meet, the $150,000 Locust Grove Handicap, anchors closing weekend of the Churchill spring meet as the Saturday feature. Racing secretary Doug Bredar said Wednesday he is expecting at least six fillies and mares, led by Rich in Spirit, for the Grade 3 Locust Grove, a 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Rich in Spirit, trained by Tom Proctor, enters off a sharp runner-up finish behind My Typhoon in the June 17 Mint Julep Handicap. A 4-year-old Glen Hill Farm homebred, Rich in Spirit has won 5 of 14 starts and nearly $400,000.

The other Locust Grove prospects are Anegada, Cursora, Dynamist, More Than Promised, and Pyrana.

The Saturday co-feature is the $70,000 Forestry, for 3-year-olds at one mile. The heavy favorite figures to be Bright One, the Romans-trained colt who earned a 101 Beyer in a June 17 maiden win.

Also Saturday, Churchill will hold drawings throughout the card to give away a total of 23 tickets to the 23rd Breeders' Cup championships, to be run Nov. 4 at Churchill.

Closing day for the 57-day meet is Sunday, when the $70,000 Heavenly Cause, for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on turf, will be featured.

Riders hit the road

Quite a few Churchill jockeys will be riding out of town Saturday, most notably Rafael Bejarano. Bejarano's missing an 11-race card could be critical in deciding the tight jockeys' race between him and Julien Leparoux. Going into Wednesday, Leparoux, who is bidding to become the first apprentice to ever win a modern day Churchill riding title, held an 80-78 lead over Bejarano.

At least four other Churchill jockeys also will be away Saturday: Robby Albarado, who is scheduled to ride at Colonial; Calvin Borel, who will be at Thistledown; and Shaun Bridgmohan and John Jacinto, both headed to Calder.

In other jockey news, Jesus Castanon will miss the final five-day stretch of the meet while serving a suspension stemming from a July 4 riding infraction. Castanon will be back for the Wednesday opener at Ellis Park.

* Ellis Park is gearing up for a 36-day meet that follows the close of Churchill. Work has been ongoing at a feverish pace at the Henderson, Ky., track since a Nov. 6 tornado ravaged the 84-year-old facility. Brian Elmore, the new general manager at Ellis, said "everything that needs to be done by opening day" will indeed be ready by Wednesday.