09/15/2003 11:00PM

Start key for Second of June


MIAMI - Second of June has spent so much time at the starting gate since his last start that trainer Bill Cesare might have considered hanging a feed tub by the gate for the 2-year-old colt.

Cesare is hoping all that extra schooling will pay off for Second of June when he starts in Saturday's $100,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes.

The starting gate has been Second of June's Achilles' heel. A son of Preakness winner Louis Quatorze, Second of June hit the gate and had to steady at the start in his debut on Aug. 9, but was talented enough to overcome the slow beginning and subsequent wide trip to win in eye-catching fashion.

Cesare was so impressed by Second of June's effort he decided to wheel the colt back three weeks later in the Seacliff Stakes at one mile. But this time, Second of June proved a handful in the gate, thrashing around badly just prior to the start and breaking several lengths behind the field. He passed four rivals through the stretch, but still finished a distant sixth behind the more experienced Tap Dancer.

"He just threw a fit in the gate, ate a lot of dirt in the run to the clubhouse turn after breaking slow, and never really had a chance to show what he can do," said Cesare, who trains Second of June for his mother, Barbara Cesare. "After that experience I took him right back to the gate the next day. He's been to the gate at least eight or nine more times since the race and will go back again Thursday and Friday."

Cesare is confident Second of June will give a better account of himself in the Foolish Pleasure.

"He's doing good and worked real good since his last start," Cesare said. "I worked him a mile in 1:43 and change last week. I still think he's a nice horse. Obviously what happened in the gate last time wasn't a very pleasant experience for him, and I'm just hopeful he has put that out of his mind. I just want him to break with the rest of them on Saturday. If he does, I'm confident he'll hit the board and can possibly even win the race. And if he breaks with the field and does get beat fair and square, then at least I'll know he's not as good as I think he is."

Both Tap Dancer and Hopefortheroses, who finished third in the Seacliff, are among the nominees for the Foolish Pleasure. The Foolish Pleasure shares top billing on Saturday's program with its filly counterpart, the $100,000 Brave Raj Stakes.

Castanon to ride in Kentucky

The local jockey colony lost one member but picked up another this week.

Jesus Castanon, who won nearly 40 races in his first time riding regularly at Calder, is heading home to Kentucky where he will ride the next several months. He will then return to Florida when the Tampa Bay Downs meet opens in December. Castanon was Tampa's second leading rider behind Joe Judice last winter.

Leroy Nelson, who has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury in a riding mishap at Gulfstream Park in February, will get back in action when he rides Goldcardmember in Friday's fourth race. Agent Peter Wright will handle Nelson's engagements.