02/09/2009 12:00AM

Tale of Ekati sharpens for comeback

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Tale of Ekati finished his final preparations on Sunday for his much anticipated 2009 debut this Saturday in the seven-furlong Richter Scale at Gulfstream Park.

Tale of Ekati worked five furlongs in 1:00.67 shortly after the renovation break, recording fractions of 24.16 seconds, 35.87, and 47.92 over a track that was fast but on the dull side all morning.

"He's training like a bear and ready to go," said trainer Barclay Tagg. "He's been off a while now, since the Cigar Mile, and I just want him to run well, although naturally I'd prefer him to win. Seven furlongs is probably not his best distance, it's not what I'd pick, but it's what I got. My main goal for him right now is the Met Mile."

Tagg said going to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen is not in his plans. If all goes well, he would like to bring back Tale of Ekati, a two-time Gradeo1 winner at 3, in the one-mile, Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 14 before heading home to New York.

"If he were to run well in this race I might consider bringing him back at seven furlongs in the Carter as a prep for the Met Mile," said Tagg.

Tale of Ekati is expected to face a field in the Richter Scale that will also include Mr. Prospector winner Ikigai, Bold Start, Fidelio, and How's Your Halo.

Nowhere to Hide earns Zito's praise

Trainer Nick Zito was more than pleased with Nowhere to Hide's fourth-place finish in Saturday's Grade 3 Risen Star at Fair Grounds. Nowhere to Hide was beaten just a nose for third by Uno Mas.

"I thought he ran a big race in New Orleans," said Zito. "Especially when you consider he was trapped down on the rail, which was completely dead all day there on Saturday. He also galloped out very strong. I really like this horse. He's courageous and shows up all the time."

Zito said he had no regrets scratching Nowhere to Hide out of the Gradeo3 Holy Bull a week ago after drawing an outside post.

"The way the Holy Bull was run, if we had drawn inside I think we'd have been right there," said Zito. "But from the post we had it would have been difficult. You saw what happened to two of the favorites who broke from the outside. Like I said before, you just can't waste a race with a 3-year-old at this time of year."

Zito said he will weigh his options before deciding on Nowhere to Hide's next start.

"We'll see how he does over the next 30 days and how things shape up in some of these preps," said Zito. "It's a long year but I believe he's going to be a horse to be reckoned with."

Zito is also weighing his options for Cool Coal Man, who turned in an impressive allowance win earlier in the meet.

"He got a 106 Beyer for that race," Zito said. "The racing office was trying to get me to bring him back this weekend in the Richter Scale but that's much too quick. There are a couple of possibilities I'm considering but nothing is definite yet."

Zito also reported that Commentator had his first breeze of the winter Saturday at Palm Meadows.

"He's training well," said Zito. "He'll run once down here before we head back north. He loves Gulfstream. A horse like him, he can find his own race."

Rice wins two turf sprints

Trainer Linda Rice, who is noted in New York for her prowess in turf sprints, continued that mastery here over the weekend.

Rice sent out Awakino Cat to capture the open division of a high-priced optional claiming sprint over the grass on Saturday, then returned to win the filly split of the same race on Sunday with Lady Rizzi.

Maimonides nearly ready to race

Maimonides, a $4.6 million son of Vindication who has not started since finishing third in the 2007 Hopeful, is about ready to make his much anticipated return.

Maimonides breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80 here Sunday. It was his sixth recorded workout since Jan. 5. Maimonides began his career with trainer Bob Baffert but is currently under the tutelage of trainer Rick Dutrow.

"He's close," said Dutrow. "He's had a couple of five-furlong works. He's doing great and very happy with himself at the moment."

Maimonides, who won his career debut by 10 lengths for Baffert at Saratoga during the summer of 2007 before finishing third in the Hopeful, was sidelined after undergoing surgery on his left knee.

"He's also had some feet issues," said Dutrow. "I'll start him off easy when he's finally ready to go and then we'll see from there."

* Game Face, the likely favorite if she goes as expected in Sunday's Hurricane Bertie Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 at Palm Meadows on Monday.