06/03/2005 12:00AM

Slivka reaches in and finds another star


Plucking a young horse out of a maiden claiming race and developing her into a multiple stakes winner sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Trainer Sandra Slivka, however, is hoping she has caught lightning in a bottle for a second time.

Slivka, who claimed the filly Hopelessly Devoted for $25,000 out of her career debut in December 2003 and guided her to six victories and nearly $500,000 in earnings until her death from heat exhaustion last January, may have uncovered another unpolished gem in Honest Hash.

Claimed for $45,000 out of a maiden race at Gulfstream Park, the 3-year-old Honest Hash made his first start for Slivka last Sunday at Delaware Park and destroyed a group of maiden special weight runners by 7 1/4 lengths under Ramon Dominguez. He earned a career-best 81 Beyer Speed Figure for the one-mile race.

Slivka is hopeful Honest Hash will post numbers similar to Hopelessly Devoted, who won 6 of 16 starts and earned $499,385, highlighted by victories in the $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup on dirt at Delaware and the $200,000 Calder Oaks on turf.

"It would be a beautiful thing if it did happen," Slivka said. "If he is half the horse she was then I will be very happy."

Like Hopelessly Devoted, Honest Hash may be better going longer on the turf than the dirt, according to Slivka.

"After the race on Sunday, Ramon said that he thinks he will be a push-button horse on the turf," Slivka said. "We are going to work him on the turf to see how he likes it, but he has the action. Hopefully, he will be able to run on both. Honestly, I think the farther he goes, the better he will be. When he goes a mile, he is just starting to get geared up. I think a mile and a sixteenth or a mile and an eighth should suit him just fine."

Private Lap returns a winner

Trainer Steve Klesaris says he believes Private Lap may have lost a step at age 6. The aging horse is still plenty competitive, however.

Making his first start since he was eased in January, Private Lap scored a 2 1/4-length victory in a one-mile allowance at Delaware on May 24, earning a 102 Beyer.

Klesaris said Private Lap could come back for a third crack at next Saturday's $100,000 Brandywine Handicap. Each of the past two years, Private Lap was a close second in the Brandywine. He was beaten a head last year and a neck in 2003.

Klesaris said Private Lap needed a long recuperation following his aborted outing in an allowance at Aqueduct on Jan. 6.

"He popped a quarter crack that day, and then we found out that he also had a hoof wall separation, so we had to give his foot enough time grow back out," Klesaris said.

"Our plan was to bring him back fresh for Delaware. He has always been a horse of some difficulty to train.

"He's not very cooperative on the racetrack, but we have a lot of success out here at Fair Hill with him because we have more options available to us. It has enabled us to keep him in better condition, and obviously his last race was indicative of that."

More Smoke's next race uncertain

Trainer John Zimmerman says he's unsure what's next on the agenda for his star 3-year-old sprinter More Smoke, who cruised to a five-length win in the six-furlong Select Stakes at Monmouth Park on May 21.

"We will work him a couple of times and then decide," said Zimmerman, fifth in the trainer standings at Delaware. "He came out of the Select in real good shape. He really is an amazing horse. His races hardly take anything out of him. The way he comes out of a race is the way you would want most of your horses going into a race."

One possibility for More Smoke, whose 112 Beyer in his 14 1/2-length win in the Grade 3 Lafayette at Keeneland is tied for the third best figure by a 3-year-old this season, is the Grade 2, $300,000 Carry Back Stakes, part of Calder's Summit of Speed program on July 9.

Laurel turf installation under way

Work has begun on installing the sod for the reconstructed turf course at Laurel Park.

The grass course has been expanded in width from 75 to 142 feet, allowing for rails to be placed at six different settings.

In addition, workers have installed lateral drains every 10 feet around the turf course. The drains are connected to a new system that takes excess water to the track's infield.

The turf course is expected to be ready for Laurel's fall meeting, which begins Sept. 8.

Fogelsonger takes time to heal

Jockey Ryan Fogelsonger, the second-leading rider at Pimlico, is giving his aching back time to heal.

Fogelsonger, injured in a fall at Pimlico on April 21, last rode May 26, his 24th birthday. He said he hopes to be healthy enough to resume riding when racing shifts to Colonial Downs on June 17.

"I have been to four different doctors and they have all told me the same thing - that it isn't going to get any better unless I rest," said Fogelsonger, who has 28 wins in 23 riding days during the Pimlico meet. "The two fractures they found in my lower back are stable, but my muscles are knotted up and getting stressed every day I ride. I have tried four or five different medications but now I am going to massage therapy, electric therapy, and acupuncture."

* Ramon Dominguez rode five winners from his eight mounts at Delaware last Sunday. The track record is six wins, accomplished by five riders, most recently Mike McCarthy in 1998.