06/24/2005 12:00AM

Tacoma to separate sprinters from routers


AUBURN, Wash. - For most of the 3-year-olds in Sunday's one-mile Tacoma Handicap, the $60,000 stakes will represent their first opportunity to race around two turns.

Both of the 119-pound highweights, Norm's Nephew and Beau Maggie, are working on a winning streak and coming off a stakes win. Their future prospects, however, will be determined in large part by how they handle the added ground on Sunday. All of the remaining stakes races for the division - the Aug. 7 Seattle Slew, the Sept. 5 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby, and the Oct. 2 Trooper Seven - are routes.

Jimmy Orr, the trainer of Norm's Nephew, and Bud Klokstad, who trains Beau Maggie, are cautiously optimistic that their charges will handle two turns, but neither is offering any guarantees.

"You never really know for sure until they do it," said Orr. "My feeling is that Norm will eventually go at least a mile, but there is always a learning curve involved when you take a horse from sprints to routes. Some horses, even ones who really want to go long, need a race or two before they get the hang of it. Norm is a smart horse, so I'm hoping he'll figure it out right away."

Norm's Nephew has won all three of his 2005 outings, including the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap on May 30. In all three he was on or very close to a fast pace. Orr said regular rider Debbie Hoonan experimented with Norm's Nephew in his major work for Sunday's assignment, a six-furlong drill in 1:11.40 on June 14. Hoonan let the gelding run a bit at the start, then got him to settle before asking him to run down the lane.

"He was very responsive, and that was good to see," said Orr. "I think what happens going into the first turn will probably dictate the way this race will be run. If the pace is fast, we don't really want to be hustling to be in front, but if it is slow we don't want to be strangling him, either. Debbie will have to make the decisions, and the horse will have to do what she wants. If he cooperates, I think he'll have a good chance to get the distance."

Klokstad believes Beau Maggie will go long as well. He noted that the Slewdledo gelding is a half-brother to Gottstein Futurity winner G L Junior, and that he has been finishing well in his sprints. Beau Maggie won a 5 1/2-furlong allowance dash from well off the pace here on opening day, then came back to win the six-furlong Auburn Stakes from just off the pace on May 1.

Beau Maggie missed the Pepsi Cola with an infected ankle, however, and that is of concern to his trainer.

"He not only missed that race, he missed about a week of training," said Klokstad. "That put us a little behind. He has been working well, though, and I think I've got him fit enough. We'll find out on Sunday."

Distance no problem for Thirsty Guy's

Trainer Phil Oviedo has no distance concerns about Thirsty Guy's, whom he brought here from Bay Meadows on Tuesday for the Tacoma. Thirsty Guy's, a California-bred son of Kahuna Jack and Pete's Cupid, by Petersberg, dispelled any doubts about his distance ability when he won his first dirt route by nine lengths over $40,000 starter allowance company at Bay Meadows in March.

"It's always a great sign when they win like that in their first time going long," said Oviedo. "Now I know he definitely wants the distance. It's just a matter of finding out where he fits up here."

Thirsty Guy's followed his showy win at 1 1/16 miles with a victory over allowance rivals at six furlongs, then ran third in a five-furlong turf test before shipping to Hollywood for the Grade 3 Laz Barrera Memorial at seven furlongs on May 21. He finished fourth to Storm Wolf, who was notching his third straight impressive win.

"It was no disgrace to be beaten by Storm Wolf, because that horse is a real freak," said Oviedo. "Our horse tried to run with him early, but Storm Wolf is in a whole different league. Our horse did well to run fourth, and he might have gotten third if he hadn't gotten knocked around at the head of the stretch."

Oviedo said Thirsty Guy's is named for a weekly event at co-owner Chuck Gust's restaurant and barn in Pacifica, Calif.

"A bunch of Chuck's buddies get together for drinks every Thursday, which they call thirsty Thursday," said the trainer. "Chuck named the horse after his buddies."

Chaves broke wrist after all

Jockey Nate Chaves underwent surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist on Tuesday and is expected to be out four to six weeks, according to his agent, Steve Peery.

Chaves hurt his wrist when he was thrown from his mount in the paddock on May 29, but X-rays revealed no break at that time. He returned to ride Sabertooth to a second-place finish in last Sunday's Budweiser Emerald Handicap, but later experienced swelling in his wrist and a second X-ray revealed the break.