04/04/2007 11:00PM

Silver Express starting over in Lafayette

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - When a horse is beaten six or eight or 10 lengths, a fair conclusion might be that he just wasn't good enough.

But when Silver Express finished 32 lengths behind Chelokee in a key entry-level allowance route at Gulfstream Park, something had to be amiss.

It was. "He came out of that with a terrible lung infection, just terrible," said Nick Zito, trainer of Silver Express. "It was a shame, because he'd been going great guns before that."

Silver Express was on the verge of stepping onto the Kentucky Derby trail going into that March 3 race at Gulfstream, but Zito said he now is essentially starting over with Silver Express, a gray colt by Unbridled's Song. Turning back from two 1 1/8-mile races to seven furlongs, Silver Express will be one of the logical choices among a field of 11 3-year-olds in the $100,000 Lafayette Stakes, the secondary feature spotted as the eighth of 10 Saturday races at Keeneland.

Zito said Silver Express has recovered from his Florida setback and should return to form in the Lafayette, which shapes up with enough early speed to boost the chances of Silver Express - especially if the Polytrack surface is favoring come-from-behinders, as it did frequently last fall.

"He ran real well over the Polytrack here last fall behind Belgravia in a maiden race, and that's one of the reasons we went for the Lafayette," said Zito.

The probable favorite in the Lafayette, which often serves as a springboard for the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs or the Withers at Aqueduct, is Out of Gwedda, trained by Todd Pletcher. Out of Gwedda most recently was third behind stablemate King of the Roxy in the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes, also run March 3 at Gulfstream.

Brilliant returning in allowance

One race earlier Saturday, Brilliant will make his 2007 debut in an intriguing turf allowance. Brilliant, a Neil Howard-trained colt, won two graded stakes last year at 3.

Brilliant has trained recently at Keeneland after being brought back from a layoff at the Fair Grounds. In what proved to be his final race last year, Brilliant was sixth as the 3-5 favorite in the Oct. 14 Hawthorne Derby. Four weeks later, he was entered in the Commonwealth Turf at Churchill but was scratched after suffering muscle cramps the morning before the race.

Howard is hoping that Brilliant can wheel back in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on the May 5 Kentucky Derby undercard. Howard and Mill House upset the Woodford two years ago with America Alive.

Besides Brilliant, the field for the 1 1/8-mile turf allowance also drew Pellegrino, winner of the Grade 3 Elkhorn Stakes here last spring at 24-1, and Request for Parole, a hard-knocking turf veteran who has earned more than $1.37 million.

Conspicuous by her mere presence in the race is Feeling So Pretty, a 13-year-old mare making her 82nd career start.