09/21/2005 11:00PM

Trainer Abreu is backed by solid resume and top owner

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With a well-heeled owner and apprenticeships under two Hall of Famers behind him, Reynaldo Abreu appears to have a bright future as a trainer. But even the brightest prospects often need to take some cuts in the minors, and this former Nick Zito assistant has been taking advantage of his chances at Suffolk Downs.

Three months since being hired as the private trainer for Marylou Whitney's stable, Abreu has won five career races - four of them at Suffolk, including one by the heavily favored Bird Harbor in Wednesday's feature. Meanwhile, Bird Charm, a half-brother to 2004 Belmont and Travers winner Birdstone and 2003 Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town, is scheduled to run in Saturday's first race.

Abreu had been one of Zito's assistants since 2002. His father, Reynaldo Abreu Sr., was a top jockey in their native Dominican Republic. When the family came to the U.S., young Reynaldo went to work walking hots for D. Wayne Lukas in 1985.

On Wednesday, Bird Harbor was making her second start since returning from surgery to remove knee chips that developed after she ran fourth in the Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park. She cruised to victory by 1 1/4 lengths under jockey Winston Thompson at 1-10 and created a $13,699 minus show pool.

"I needed an easy race to get the filly's confidence back," said Abreu. "We've got some stakes in mind for her, and she needed something easy. She ran at Saratoga in her first race back; she wasn't as fit as we wanted after the surgery, and the race was a really tough allowance. That was more like what we expect from her."

With Abreu based at Saratoga, shipping to Boston is just as close as heading to Long Island. A similar plan to the one employed Wednesday is in place for Bird Charm.

"It's just as easy to go to Suffolk as Belmont," said Abreu. "The race should be easier as well."

British track announcer returns

New England racing gets an old England feel again next week as British announcer Mark Johnson returns.

Johnson is also a television host on "At the Races" in his native England and is one of the leading commentators for that network's prime-time coverage of American racing.

Johnson, 39, has called the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger among his major credits, along with calls of the prestigious steeplechase meets at Cheltenham and the Grand National.

Johnson was on the mike alongside regular announcers Larry Collmus and T.D. Thornton last week and will be back this coming Monday through Wednesday.