04/24/2004 12:00AM

'Smarty' has work of the week


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The racetrack is open for training for more than four hours every morning. But as is so often the case in the days leading up to a major race like the Kentucky Derby, most of the important action takes place within a span of less than 10 minutes following the renovation break.

Such was the case here Saturday, when Birdstone broke off to begin his work just as fellow Kentucky Derby contender Smarty Jones was turning into the stretch. Ashado, a highly regarded Kentucky Oaks hopeful, began her five-furlong breeze while Birdstone was still in the midst of his work.

The racetrack held some moisture throughout the morning, but sped up appreciably after being harrowed during the renovation break.

Work of the day

Smarty Jones (five furlongs in 58.29 seconds): Any doubts about whether Smarty Jones is a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender were erased after he cruised through an absolutely effortless work under jockey Willie Martinez.

With Martinez sitting dead still from start to finish, Smarty Jones went in fractions of 11.46, 34.20, and 46.55 before coming home his final eighth in 11.64. He never turned a hair when inadvertently catching and then passing another worker near the three-eighths pole. Better yet, he continued on brilliantly around the turn to the seven-eighths pole, galloping out six furlongs in an eye-catching 1:11.49. One can only imagine how fast he might have gone had Martinez moved his hands even slightly at any juncture of the work. Easily the best of the pre-Derby moves seen here this past week.

Birdstone (five furlongs in 58.38) worked in virtually the same time as Smarty Jones, but was under some urging to do so and did not show nearly the same kind of explosiveness during his gallop out.

Breaking off two lengths behind stablemate Broadway View under regular exercise rider Maxine Correa, Birdstone was nudged along down the backstretch, going an opening eighth in 11.72 and three furlongs in 34.20. Birdstone floated out into about the five path while joining his workmate entering the stretch, then was given a little more encouragement through the final furlong, which he completed in 12.06. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.81 - a very respectable time, but more than a full second slower than Smarty Jones.

Read the Footnotes left a favorable impression in his first appearance over the track after shipping up from Florida on Friday. He jogged an easy mile the wrong way, then turned around and galloped a strong but controlled 1 1/4 miles for exercise rider Morna McDowall. The lone drawback was his failure to change leads through the stretch.

Wimbledon seemed more uncomfortable with the surface than usual during his extended stay on the racetrack. Not the prettiest mover among the Derby contenders stabled here, Wimbledon appeared stiffer than usual while jogging one mile upon entering the track. He only leveled out slightly the final time around during his subsequent 1 1/2-mile gallop.

Friends Lake was feeling good after being given an impromptu day off Friday, and galloped a good 1 1/4 miles in preparation for a scheduled five-furlong work Sunday. He has filled back out nicely after tucking up a bit following his long van ride from Florida earlier in the week.

Kentucky Oaks

Three Oaks horses worked, led by Ashado, who breezed in company with stablemate Bohemian Lady, another Todd Pletcher-trained 3-year-old filly who is a minor stakes winner in her own right.

Ashado (five furlongs in 58.64): Showed a good turn of speed despite being reserved throughout the drill, going in fractions of 34.69 and 46.63 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.30. Had to angle slightly off the rail when running up on another worker in the final sixteenth of a mile.

A. P. Adventure (five furlongs in 1:01.33): Gave the appearance of not handling the wet/fast track. Was hard-used down the stretch after a relatively slow opening half-mile (49.36), and her gallop out was virtually nonexistent. She shut down badly shortly after passing the wire, finally arriving at the seven-furlong pole in a slow 1:18.50.

Victory U. S. A. (five furlongs in 1:00.70): Was the first to work after the renovation break. Went along at a fairly even clip, posting fractions of 24.54, 36.33, and 48.74 without undue pressure. She did appear to bobble a stride or two on a couple of occasions through the stretch.

All works timed by Daily Racing Form unless otherwise noted.