09/08/2005 11:00PM

Time off soothing to nervous Tusko T.

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AUBURN, Wash. - Tusko T., the likely favorite for Sunday's $50,000 WTBA Lads Stakes for 2-year-olds at Emerald Downs, is a nervous type, and that has been a concern for trainer Howard Belvoir.

Belvoir fretted when Tusko T., a talented son of You and I, washed out badly before each of his starts, both impressive wins, and he has had to take pains to replace the weight the gelding has lost in his races. Lately, however, the trainer has been able to turn Tusko T.'s temperament into an asset.

"He hasn't had a chance to run in six weeks, and it is a lot easier to keep a horse like him fit for that long than it is with a more relaxed horse," Belvoir explained. "I decided to turn out Courting Seattle rather than train him as hard as I would have needed to train him to get him ready for this race, but I could keep going with Tusko T. It doesn't take as much to keep him fit."

Belvoir, like most of the other trainers with Lads hopefuls, was disappointed that there has been no open prep for Sunday's mile race since the six-furlong Emerald Express Stakes on July 30. He admitted that even the long gap between races might have been a blessing in disguise for Tusko T., however.

"With a horse like him, I might have blown his mind if I had raced him too often," said Belvoir. "He is probably better off with more time between his races, so things have really worked out pretty well for him. He is even settling down a little. I schooled him twice in the paddock this week, and he handled it well. He is holding his weight pretty well, too, so he is coming into this race about as well as I could have hoped."

As for the added distance of the Lads, Belvoir said that is not a concern.

"He will get a mile," he said.

Tom Two: Speed and breeding

Tusko T. and the others will likely be trying to catch Tom Two in the Lads, and it probably won't be easy. Tom Two, a half-brother to route stakes winners Cyamaria, Yesss, and Tom Won, has shown brilliant speed through five starts. He comes into the Lads as the most experienced member of the field, and he got to race 6 1/2 furlongs as recently as Aug. 20 because he was eligible for the Strong Ruler Stakes. He won that restricted race by 4 1/4 lengths in 1:17.80.

"It was a big advantage to be able to run in that stakes," said trainer Eulia Bischoff. "It means I only have to stretch him out 1 1/2 furlongs, and I get to do it off a series of evenly spaced races. All I have had to do was give him a bunch of long gallops. He is plenty fit, and he has natural speed."

Bischoff said it was also an advantage to be able to run Tom Two in three maiden races, because he needed the seasoning.

"When I got him in April, we called him 'the wild coyote,' " said Bischoff. "He just had no manners. He would have won his first race if he had behaved, but he wouldn't do what the rider wanted. It was just as well, because we got to run him in a couple of extra maiden races and he benefited from the experience. He is really pretty good now. He still has his fun on the hotwalker, but it is no problem tacking him up now and he knows what to do on the racetrack."

Tribunal offspring in demand

The surprise hit at Tuesday's Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association summer yearling sale was first-crop stallion Tribunal, whose 12 sons and daughters to sell averaged $27,750, well above the overall average of $18,546.

Tribunal's sale progeny included the top-selling filly, a daughter of the Magesterial matron Bold Magestrate who sold for $100,000, and a colt out of the Allen's Prospect mare Downpatrick Dragon who went for $65,000.

Of course, Tribunal's reception was a surprise only to part-time observers. Tribunal, a regally bred son of Deputy Minister and Six Crowns, impressed local breeders from the start.

"He has been very popular," said Nina Hagen, who stands Tribunal at El Dorado Farms in Enumclaw. "If you saw him, you would know why. He sold for $1.8 million as a yearling, and he really looks the part. His babies look like him, so I thought they would sell well. In fact, if they run like they look, we will have a hard time keeping him in Washington. He really has Kentucky credentials."

Tribunal won 3 of 18 starts and placed in two graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap, en route to $315,140 in earnings. He stands for a fee of $4,500.