03/04/2002 12:00AM

Southwest winners indefinite for Rebel


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - The connections of Private Emblem and Paloma Parilla, who each won a division of the $75,000 Southwest for 3-year-olds last Saturday at Oaklawn Park, would not commit their colts to the Grade 3, $100,000 Rebel here March 23, although the race is an option for both horses.

Private Emblem won the first and fastest division of the Southwest by three-quarters of a length over Dusty Spike, covering a mile in the mud in 1:40.29. It was the second straight stakes win for the colt, who one race earlier captured the $75,000 Black Gold Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs on turf on Jan. 4.

Trainer Steve Asmussen has purposely given Private Emblem a generous amount of time between his races, and because of that, the timing of the Rebel, the final local prep for the Arkansas Derby, is a drawback. "I'm a little concerned that the Rebel is too soon for a horse like him, so we're just going to play it by ear," the trainer said. "It's going to be a question of if we want to run him back that soon."

Asmussen said he will also look at New York-bred stakes for Private Emblem. The colt has been nominated to the Big Apple Triple for statebreds, which features the the $100,000-added Mike Lee Handicap at Belmont on June 29; the $125,000-added New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 27; and the $150,000 added Albany at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

If Private Emblem passes the Rebel, Asmussen will still be represented in the race. He said Windward Passage, who he sent out to finish third to Paloma Parilla, will be pointed for the Rebel, as will Interminable Gold, who closed from more than 20 lengths off the pace to finish fifth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths, in the same race.

The Southwest win capped a big week at Oaklawn for Asmussen, who won five races from 11 starters to move into a tie for third place in the standings with Donnie Von Hemel. Overall, Asmussen has won 11 races from 43 starts at the meet. He has a larger stable here than last year, when he won eight races from 42 starters during the entire season.

Trainer Larry Robideaux Jr. said Paloma Parilla would start next in either the Rebel or the $100,000 Grand Prairie Turf Challenge at Lone Star Park near Dallas on April 6. The colt won the second division of the Southwest by a determined neck over Cope With an Image in a time of 1:41.70.

Paloma Parilla is a son of Dove Hunt, who was a graded winner on turf, and graded stakes-placed on dirt. A long-range goal for the colt is the Grade 3, $500,000 Lone Star Derby on May 11.

The Southwest was Paloma Parilla's first two-turn start. Previously a front-runner, Paloma Parilla settled off the pace, something Robideaux has worked to teach him since his wire-to-wire win in a six-furlong allowance Feb. 2.

"He learned his lessons well for the short amount of time he had to do it," Robideaux said.

Clergy and Richest Half to cut back

Clergy, who finished third as the favorite in the first division of the Southwest, will likely shorten up in distance for his next start. The colt, undefeated in two starts heading into the race, was making his first two-turn start last Saturday.

"I guess he is a sprinter, but we needed to try him," said trainer Frank Brothers. "Right now, we will concentrate on sprints. Maybe this year, later on, we will try stretching him out again."

Richest Half, the $50,000 Mountain Valley winner who has never been beaten in four starts around one turn, will also cut back in distance after finishing fifth to Private Emblem in the Southwest. "He's a closing sprinter," said Asmussen.

Speed vs. Closer

Joyful Tune, a career winner of five races in nine starts who returned from a six-month layoff last out to finish second to multiple stakes winner Sand Ridge in a money allowance, could steal away on a clear lead in the featured ninth race, a six-furlong conditioned allowance worth $34,000.

If he gets hooked, the race will set up for the late-running Chindi, an earner of $714,135 who makes his third start back from a layoff for trainer Steve Hobby. Tim Doocy will ride Chindi, while Anthony Lovato has the mount on Joyful Tune for leading trainer Cole Norman.

* There are two stakes this weekend. Bedanken headlines the $75,000 Honeybee for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, while Spanish Glitter is expected to bid for her second stakes win of the meet Sunday in the $50,000 Spring Fever.