05/04/2006 11:00PM

Stevie Wonderboy on way back


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The Triple Crown cannot end soon enough for horse owner Merv Griffin and trainer Doug O'Neill.

About the same time that the Belmont Stakes is run on June 10, Griffin's Stevie Wonderboy, the champion 2-year-old male of 2005, will be returning to racetrack training after being sidelined for 90 days following ankle surgery.

"He's due back in five weeks or so, and at that stage we start tack-walking," O'Neill said on Thursday.

The winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park last October, Stevie Wonderboy has not started since finishing second to Brother Derek in the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita in January. Stevie Wonderboy was found to have a hairline condylar fracture of his right front ankle on Feb. 6 while training for a start in the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita in March.

Stevie Wonderboy was sent to Griffin's California ranch to recover. A winner of 3 of 6 starts and $1,058,940, Stevie Wonderboy is months away from a start.

"He's been hand-walked for 10 to 15 minutes a day," O'Neill said. "I think it's October at the soonest" for a comeback.

Synthetic surface update

Hollywood Park continues to pursue the installation of a synthetic racing surface for its fall meeting, but does not have an estimated cost and is still holding meetings with engineers.

Currently, the track is discussing drainage issues with engineers, according to president Jack Liebau.

"We're still moving along," Liebau said. "We're getting more and more information. They're trying to figure out what will be the best undersurface. After that meeting [with the engineers], we ought to be ready to go."

Plans are for Hollywood Park to be closed for training shortly after the current meeting ends on July 16 to begin the installation. The process must be completed shortly after Del Mar closes in early September when Hollywood Park reopens for training.

Regarding cost, Liebau said, "It remains a moving target."

No track in California has yet installed a synthetic surface. Hollywood Park has conducted tests in a parking lot adjacent to the racetrack and backstretch, mixing various sand types with synthetic material in an effort to find an appropriate surface.

Miller and McIngvale make a deal

Acrimony was only temporary between trainer Peter Miller and owner Jim McIngvale, who split in late March over handling of the top 3-year-old sprinter Fast Parade. Miller and McIngvale disagreed over Fast Parade's campaign, and when Miller balked at running Fast Parade in a prep race for the Kentucky Derby, the two split.

Fast Parade set the pace and tired to seventh in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes on April 22 at Keeneland for trainer Virginia Padgett - eliminating his Derby prospects. After that race, Miller decided he had nothing to lose by calling McIngvale to inquire about purchasing Fast Parade, whom Miller trained March 4 when he won the 6 1/2-furlong Baldwin Stakes at Santa Anita with a 101 Beyer Speed Figure.

"I figured I'd take a shot and call Mac directly," Miller said, relating his conversation with McIngvale. "I said, 'Now that the Derby is out, I know you don't have a lot of use for a 3-year-old gelding.' "

McIngvale agreed and sold Fast Parade to Miller and an owner that Miller declined to identify. Fast Parade returned this week to Miller's stable at San Luis Rey Downs.

"Our plan is to keep him sprinting; I think he has a chance to be a top sprinter," Miller said, adding that the 3-year-old will be freshened and point for the Del Mar meet.

Fast Parade has won 3 races and $107,300 from 6 starts.

Grey Swallow lays over Jim Murray rivals

Grey Swallow, the winner of the 2004 Irish Derby, seems almost out of place among the 14 nominees for the $250,000 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap on Saturday.

A winner of two Group 1 races, Grey Swallow is likely to be a strong favorite in the Grade 3 stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf. The Murray will be Grey Swallow's first start in a race other than a Grade 1 or Group 1 stakes in nine starts. Along the way, he won the 2005 Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland, and finished third in the 2004 Irish 2000 Guineas and fourth in the 2004 Irish Champion Stakes.

The Murray will mark one of Grey Swallow's final starts for Irish trainer Dermot Weld. According to assistant trainer Robert Dolan, who accompanied Grey Swallow from Ireland, the 5-year-old Grey Swallow will make his next start in the Manhattan Handicap at Belmont Park on June 10 before joining Richard Dutrow Jr.'s stable.

"That will be tough," Dolan said. "He's been with me for four years."

Grey Swallow has not started since finishing third in the Grade 1 Canadian International at Woodbine in Canada last October. He was demoted to fourth for interference in the stretch.

The Jim Murray is one of three stakes on Saturday's card, along with the $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at 1 1/16 miles and the $100,000 Los Angeles Handicap at six furlongs.

Surf Cat, the winner of the 2005 Swaps, leads the Mervyn LeRoy. Bordonaro, who won the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap at Oaklawn Park last month, tops the Los Angeles Handicap.

- additional reporting by Brad Free