05/14/2007 12:00AM

Street Sense's Preakness rivals lining up

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Derby third-place finisher Curlin works under exercise rider Carmen Rojas at Churchill Downs on Monday.

The cachet of the Kentucky Derby resulted in 22 horses being entered in the race two weeks ago, and the maximum of 20 ran. The Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, figures to be a far more sedate affair, a small dinner party, not a mosh pit. As of Monday, just nine 3-year-olds were expected to be entered on Wednesday at Pimlico for Saturday's 132nd Preakness Stakes, in which Derby winner Street Sense will continue his quest to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

Of the 19 who futilely chased Street Sense going 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs, only three are scheduled to face him again going 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico. Hard Spun, who was second in the Derby, and Curlin, who finished third, have been pointed to the $1 million Preakness all along. And on Monday, trainer Todd Pletcher said he was strongly considering running Circular Quay, who finished sixth in the Derby.

Pletcher also would be represented by King of the Roxy, who finished second in the Santa Anita Derby and then bypassed the Kentucky Derby. King of the Roxy is one of five horses who skipped the Derby and will make their Triple Crown debuts in the Preakness, along with C P West, Flying First Class, Mint Slewlep, and Xchanger.

Four Preakness runners - Circular Quay, C P West, Curlin, and Mint Slewlep - worked on Monday at three different tracks.

Curlin, who is based at Churchill Downs, breezed an easy half-mile in 51 seconds with his regular exercise rider, Carmen Rosas.

"He looked good. Nice and relaxed," Steve Asmussen, the trainer of Curlin, said Monday morning from Churchill Downs. "I'm very impressed with how much horse he is, how strong he is."

For Curlin, as well as the other horses exiting the Derby, the Preakness will be the first and perhaps only time in their life when they will run back on just two weeks' rest. In recent years, many trainers have not worked their horses between the Derby and Preakness. But Curlin and Circular Quay worked Monday, and Street Sense was scheduled to work on Tuesday at Churchill Downs.

"There's not a lot of people running back in two weeks," Asmussen said. "It's definitely a quick turnaround. But it's something we do a lot," he said of his far-flung stable.

"I think it helps their state of mind. We want to stay in a rhythm. It takes their expectations away. They don't have to guess when they are going to do something."

Circular Quay, who went to Belmont Park the day after the Derby, worked a half-mile there in 48.44 seconds in company with the older stakes horse A. P. Arrow.

Circular Quay ran in the Derby off an eight-week layoff. Pletcher said he wanted to evaluate Circular Quay on Tuesday before making a final decision regarding the Preakness.

"I thought the horse worked well," Pletcher said. "Basically since the Derby he's trained very well and I just wanted to keep my options open. I'll wait and see how he looks [Tuesday]."

Prior to the emergence of Circular Quay as a potential Preakness starter, John Velazquez was scheduled to ride King of the Roxy. Velazquez rode Circular Quay in the Derby. Garrett Gomez worked King of the Roxy on Saturday. Pletcher said he had not yet finalized riding assignments for the Preakness.

Also on Monday at Belmont, C P West breezed four furlongs in 47.24 seconds. He finished that drill about four lengths clear of workmate Southern Conference, a 3-year-old who just won a maiden $16,000 claiming race at Aqueduct. C P West, second in the Withers last out, is trained by Nick Zito.

At Pimlico, Mint Slewlep worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds for trainer Robbie Bailes. He is the first Preakness runner to arrive on the grounds.

Curlin, Flying First Class, and Street Sense are all scheduled to be flown from Kentucky to Maryland on Wednesday. Asmussen was not sure when he would arrive. His paternal grandmother died in Laredo, Texas, on Sunday night, and services had yet to be planned as of Monday morning.

"She lived next door to us since I was in second grade," Asmussen said.

Hard Spun is scheduled to be sent by van to Pimlico on Wednesday from Delaware Park, where he has been training since the Derby, and C P West is scheduled to arrive by van on Wednesday from Belmont Park. Pletcher's duo is expected to travel from Belmont on Thursday, and Xchanger - who is based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland - is scheduled to arrive Friday.

Xchanger will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, who was to ride Chelokee if he went in the Preakness. But Chelokee, who worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Fair Hill on Sunday for trainer Michael Matz, will instead run in the Barbaro Stakes on the Preakness undercard, according to Don Little, whose Centennial Farms partnership owns Chelokee.

"We got a little behind with him, and we don't want to rush things," Little said Monday from his office in Boston.

In a refreshing departure from years past, and from what Churchill Downs has also done in recent years with the Derby, the Preakness will revert to a traditional, blind draw for post positions. There will not be a mock draft, according to Pimlico publicist Mike Gathagan. The post draw will be held Wednesday afternoon, in the ESPNZone in Baltimore's Inner Harbor area, and will be part of a one-hour show beginning at 4:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2.

The long-range forecast is for a splendid day on Saturday after midweek storms. According to weather.com, Wednesday's high temperature is forecast for 82 degrees, but thunderstorms that day and Thursday are expected to yield mild temperatures in subsequent days. Saturday's forecast is for sunny skies and a high temperature of 73 degrees.

- additional reporting by David Grening