12/26/2006 12:00AM

Teuflesberg finally meeting high expectations

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By MARCUS HERSH

Teuflesberg has been attacked by yellow jackets while readying for a race at Saratoga, fallen down in a fit of pique while being saddled at Keeneland, and stumbled badly leaving the gate in three different starts. Recently, his luck has changed, and Teuflesberg has begun to consistently show the talent he only occasionally flashed early in his 2-year-old season.

On Sunday, Teuflesberg won for the third time in four starts, taking the Sugar Bowl Stakes at Fair Grounds by more than two lengths over a decent Scott Blasi-trained colt named Probation Ready. Teuflesberg does not lack for seasoning, having started 11 times this year, but his trainer, Jamie Sanders, has no immediate plans to rest the horse. While undecided on Teuflesberg's next start, Sanders said the colt had come out of his Sunday win over a sloppy track in good condition, and could run next either in the Jan. 13 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds, or perhaps in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream. The Swale is the more prominent of the two spots, and would allow Teuflesberg to continue racing around one turn.

But going to the one-mile Lecomte would mean Teuflesberg stays at home, and Sanders remains convinced that her horse can go two turns despite two poor performances in route races.

"I know he'll be okay at two turns," said Sanders, a Kentucky native who worked 11 years for Nick Zito, and went out on her own this year. "In the Lane's End [at Keeneland] he got worked up in the paddock, then fell down in the paddock, and then he went a half-mile in 46 [seconds], which you can't possibly do and finish on the Polytrack. Then in the Breeders' Cup he lost all chance, so you kind of have to throw that race out."

Sanders owns Teuflesberg in partnership with her fiance, Donnie Kelly, and Gary Logsdon, a longtime owner and close friend to Sanders's father. Teuflesberg has earned more than $157,000 now, and whether he can compete in 3-year-old route stakes or not, the colt qualifies as a success, having been purchased for only $9,000 as a yearling at a Fasig-Tipton sale in October 2005.

"It was just luck," Sanders said of the bargain buy. "It was the last days of the sale, everyone was gone, it was raining and freezing cold. The breeder sent him through with no reserve. We thought he'd be out of our price range."

Teuflesberg required seven tries to win a maiden race, though he was an excellent second to Scat Daddy in the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga while still a maiden. Sanders said she could see all along Teuflesberg could compete with stakes horses. Over time, he has proven her right.

Probation Ready had excuses for loss

Trainer Scott Blasi said Probation Ready grabbed a quarter when he broke awkwardly in the Sugar Bowl. Probation Ready then got stuck on the inside on a track favoring outside paths, and he did well to finish second. There are no plans for Probation Ready's next race, nor does Blasi have in mind a specific race for Gaff, who needed no excuses in Saturday's off-the-turf Bonapaw Stakes.

Gaff had not won a race since last Jan. 6, and had been a dull seventh on opening day at Fair Grounds in the Thanksgiving Handicap, but he looked like his old self Saturday, dueling Texas invader Mystery Classic into defeat through a sizzling early pace, then holding on to win by a neck. Gaff earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106 for the win, his highest Beyer since his win almost a year ago in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector.

"Physically, he just looked better than any horse in the paddock Saturday," Blasi said, explaining Gaff's turnaround in the last month. "He's one of those big, heavy horses, and those horses, when they're older, it takes longer to get them ready. I don't think those works before his last race had him as tight as he needed to be."

With a slew of 2-year-olds, the Blasi barn is almost certain to have a starter in the Lecomte, though by then trainer Steve Asmussen, sitting out a suspension, is expected to be back at the helm. Blasi said Beta Capo, a Churchill entry-level allowance winner in his most recent start, might be the barn's representative in the Lecomte.

Woodchopper off the grass?

With several days of rain in the forecast this week, Saturday's Woodchopper Stakes for 3-year-olds is in danger of being rained off the grass, which would be too bad, since the Woodchopper drew a highly competitive field of 10.

Topping the field are Arbuckle Bandit and Storm Treasure, the one-two finishers in the $169,000 Commonwealth Turf Stakes on Nov. 11 at Churchill. Arbuckle Bandit worked a half-mile on Tuesday morning, and is a candidate to stay in the Woodchopper even with a rain-off, trainer Mike Stidham said.