02/06/2002 12:00AM

Track speeds up after makeover


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Gulfstream's maintenance crew worked on the racetrack Tuesday, and the result was a noticeably faster surface on Wednesday. For most of the meet, the track has been deeper and race and work times significantly slower than in recent years, leading to complaints from some horsemen.

"We were concerned the track was getting too deep," said Gulfstream president Scott Savin. "The problem stemmed from taking four inches of rain last Friday at the worst possible time, when the track was open and vulnerable because of training and that afternoon's races. So we spent all day Tuesday re-working the track to make it more uniform and safer."

Dennis Testa, director of operations, explained the changes that were made to the track on Tuesday, a dark day.

"First we graded the track to a level 3 3/4 inches," said Testa. "Then we added clay to bring the content back up, replacing what was lost during last week's rains. I then harrowed it for even consistency. I knew we had made a drastic change, but as long as we can keep a 3 3/4-inch cushion the track will be fair and safe."

McPeek pair go fast

Not all trainers were pleased with the faster surface. Trainer Ken McPeek wore a look of disgust Wednesday after watching his top 3-year-old colt, Repent, and 3-year-old-filly, Take Charge Lady, breeze five furlongs in 58 seconds while working in company.

The works by Repent and Take Charge Lady were the fastest by more than two seconds of 21 five-furlong moves.

"I sure didn't want them going that fast," McPeek said. "It's the racetrack, it's not the horses. Yesterday, or the day before, they'd have worked in a minute or 1:01."

Take Charge Lady, the Alcibiades winner, finished a half-length in front of Repent, who galloped out very well, but who was blowing hard afterward. Both were timed galloping out six furlongs in 1:11.80.

"They're both just very talented horses," McPeek said. "Tony [D'Amico] said the filly felt super. But, I'd rather the track was slower; they get more out of it."

*, who finished second in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and came back to win the Kentucky Jockey Club, is being pointed to the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 17. Take Charge Lady is expected to run in the Davona Dale here on Feb. 24.

While McPeek was somewhat miffed, other trainers were pleased with the track Wednesday morning. David Bell worked his top 3-year-old, Changeintheweather, who went six furlongs in 1:11 out of the gate under Jorge Chavez. It was the fastest by more than two seconds of five moves at the distance.

"He worked well, I was very happy with him," Bell said. "The track seemed a lot tighter this morning. Good, I think. I haven't won one yet, maybe I'll win one now."

Bell said he is more inclined to run Changeintheweather - winner of the Grade 1 Grey Stakes at Woodbine - in an allowance race rather than the Feb. 16 Fountain of Youth.

Plans for Dancing Missile

Dancing Missile, who won a fourth-level allowance here on Monday, could make his next start in the Grade 2, $200,000 General George Handicap Feb. 18 at Laurel Park, trainer Dale Romans said Wednesday.

Monday's 1 1/2-length win was the second consecutive victory for Dancing Missile, a 4-year-old son of Canaveral, and third in his last five starts.

"I was real pleased with him, he was very professional," Romans said. "He got the lead, but he didn't run off. He was relaxed."

The General George comes only two weeks after Dancing Missile's win, but Romans said Dancing Missile came out of the race in fine shape.

"It didn't take much out of him," Romans said. "I know it's close, but you have to go when it's there."

Meanwhile, Romans plans to run Red's Honor in Sunday's $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap here. Red's Honor had a three-race winning streak snapped in the Mr. Prospector Handicap when he finished third behind Hook and Ladder and Kipperscope. Those two rivals are expected to run in the Deputy Minister.

"He came out of his race real well," Romans said. "I think he'll improve. It looks like it's pretty much the same group."

With Pat Day scheduled to ride in New Orleans on Sunday, Edgar Prado will ride Red's Honor in the Deputy Minister.

Honorifico to prep in Deputy Minister

Trainer Angel Penna Jr. is pointing Honorifico to the Creme Fraiche Handicap on March 10, but needs to get a race into him before then. With allowance races having failed to fill, the 8-year-old Honorifico will run in Sunday's Deputy Minister at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Honorifico hasn't been out since winning a money allowance race at Belmont last September. Penna was pointing him to the Cigar Mile, but the horse developed a badly bruised foot that took a long time to heal.

Honorifico was sidelined for more than 18 months with a hip injury before returning last summer. Penna believes that Honorifico has lost the speed that made him a successful sprinter, which is why he plans to stretch him out this year. The Creme Fraiche is run at 1 1/16 miles.

"He doesn't give me any more what he used to," Penna said. "A mile and a sixteenth I think will be okay for him."

On Wednesday, Honorifico breezed four furlongs in 49 seconds.

The field for the Deputy Minister is expected to include Hook and Ladder, Explicit, Fappie's Notebook, Kipperscope, Personal First, Red's Honor, and Twilight Road.

Queen of the longshots

There is no doubt who the darling of the longshot players is this meet. That honor belongs to Terri Pompay after she sent out Quick Moment, who paid $89.60 for winning Sunday's eighth race, and first-time starter Gabrielatthegate, who returned $48.80 for winning Monday.

"It's really exciting," said Pompay, who is stabled at Gulfstream regularly for the first time this winter. "I went over to the [OBS at Calder] sales Tuesday and everybody was congratulating me. When you win two races in a row with longshots like that, people seem to really take notice."

Pompay, who spends the majority of the season on the New Jersey circuit, has 10 horses stabled here with more waiting to come in off the farm once stall space opens up.

Pompay called Quick Moment's race Sunday "a vast improvement."

"He's a big, good-looking horse and we've tried a number of things on him, including electro-magnetic pulse treatments that he really seems to enjoy," she said. "I can't really pinpoint what is responsible for his turnaround. It's like a light bulb just clicked in his head."

Pompay said Gabrielatthegate had been training well for his debut, and she tried to spot him where he could win first time out by entering the colt in a $45,000-40,000 maiden race. Gabrielatthegate rallied from fifth place to win by a half-length.

"You never know how a horse will perform the first time no matter how well they've trained," said Pompay. "But I was really impressed the way he ran, coming from behind and rallying along the rail like that. He ran a very professional race."

Pompay was not involved with the huge payoffs in Wednesday's third race. Special Red won the race, paying $58. Higher Gear finished second at odds of 102-1 and Cool Cara was third at 55-1. The trifecta paid $36,545.20.

Whata Brainstorm about ready

Whata Brainstorm, idle since finishing fourth in the Explosive Bid Handicap at Fair Grounds nearly 11 months ago, appears just about ready to return to action after working five furlongs in 59.80 seconds around the dogs over a firm turf course here Wednesday morning.

Whata Brainstorm, a Grade 2 winner, came out of the Explosive Bid with a broken sesamoid in his left hind ankle. He returned to training in November but had his progress slowed last month when he suffered a stone bruise in his foot.

"I gave him 10 days off so we could work on the bruise and cool it out," said trainer Jim Picou. "Today was the first time he's worked on the turf and the fastest he's worked since returning to training. He did get a little tired at the end but I am cautiously happy about the way he went."

Picou said he will likely nominate Whata Brainstorm for the Grade 3 Canadian Handicap on Feb. 23 and see how the race looks before deciding whether to run him.

- additional reporting by David Grening


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