02/08/2008 12:00AM

Tale of Ekati isn't up to Tagg's standards

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Anybody thinking about wagering on Tale of Ekati in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager be forewarned. There's a good chance that Tale of Ekati, winner of the Grade 2 Belmont Futurity last fall, might have only two preps under his belt if he makes the field for this year's Kentucky Derby.

Tale of Ekati worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Palm Meadows on Friday. Shortly thereafter, trainer Barclay Tagg said "I still don't have him right back where I want him yet."

Tagg said it looks like Tale of Ekati will not make his 3-year-old debut until the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 8. If all goes well, he would then be pointed for the Grade 1 Wood Memorial four weeks later.

Tale of Ekati is one of three Derby hopefuls in Tagg's barn, along with Jockey Ridge and Elysium Fields. Jockey Ridge gets back in action on Sunday when he stretches out to a mile under first-level allowance conditions at Gulfstream Park. Jockey Ridge earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure winning his maiden here last month and Tagg likens his situation somewhat to that of Showing Up two years earlier.

"Showing Up also broke his maiden going 6 1/2 furlongs here at Gulfstream and then came back in a one-mile allowance race, which he won, beating Chatain," recalled Tagg.

Unfortunately, a bruised foot prevented Showing Up from running in the Wood and forced Tagg to instead race him in the Lexington Stakes just two weeks prior to the Derby. Despite wheeling back on short rest and his relative inexperience, Showing Up gave a good account of himself in the Derby, finishing sixth behind Barbaro after forcing the pace into the stretch.

"At least with Jockey Ridge we're a little more advanced since he'd already run at 2 and this allowance race comes in early February," said Tagg. "Showing Up didn't make his second start that year until March."

Tagg also reported that Nobiz Like Shobiz is "coming around" but has yet to breeze and the earliest he might return would be the Grade 1 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 11.

"I don't want to run him too hard this year," Tagg said of Nobiz Like Shobiz. "If I could get him to win a couple of Grade 1's this season I'd be very happy with him."

Einstein will go back to turf

Trainer Helen Pitts said her Grade 1 winner Einstein came out of his sixth-place finish in last Saturday's Donn Handicap in good shape but will likely return to the turf for his next start.

Jockey Edgar Prado told Pitts he was pleased with Einstein's effort. "He said he never had a horse try so hard in a race," Pitts said. "But he's just a different horse on turf than dirt. He has a much quicker turn of foot over the grass so we'll probably stick to grass from now on."

Pitts said she is uncertain when or where Einstein might return, although she left open the possibility that he could compete in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 23. He won that stakes two years ago to give Pitts the first Grade 1 win of her training career.

"He's already started twice this year so that might be bringing him back a bit quick but we'll see," said Pitts. "It's a long year and there's no sense rushing him into anything if we don't have to."

Pitts also confirmed that she is seriously considering the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth for Face the Cat, her improving 3-year-old prospect who has won both of his starts here this winter, including a first-level allowance at a mile on Jan. 30. That performance earned him a 93 Beyer Speed Figure.

"The Fountain of Youth would obviously be a big jump for him but I'd like to try him around two turns and at least we'll know where we'll stand with him if he were to run in a race like that," said Pitts.

Along with Face the Cat, other possible starters for the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth currently include Anak Nakal, Cool Coal Man, Make the Point, Elysium Fields, Court Vision, Monba, and Golden Spikes.

Suwannee River protest hearing scheduled

A hearing will be held Thursday on the protest filed by owner Gary Zwerling regarding the finish of last Sunday's Grade 3 Suwannee River Handicap. Zwerling, whose La Dolce Vita finished second, has alleged that race winner Green Girl did not carry her assigned weight through much of the post parade, per house rules.

Green Girl left trainer Christophe Clement's barn at Payson Park earlier this week to head for the breeding shed. She will be bred to Kingmambo later this season.

* Fierce Wind worked four furlongs in 47.80 seconds at Palm Meadows on Friday. Trainer Nick Zito said Fierce Wind, a 5 1/4-length allowance winner going 1 1/8 miles here last month, might make his next start this coming Saturday in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.