04/29/2002 12:00AM

Trainer keeps hope alive for ailing Sharp Performance


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Sharp Performance, who was pulled up with severe ligament injuries to both his forelegs in Saturday's Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct, was in a battle for his life Monday morning.

Sharp Perfomance, a 4-year-old, suffered extensive damage to his suspensory ligaments in his forelegs. The colt's trainer, David Donk, described the injuries as life-threatening and career-ending.

Sharp Performance was in stable condition on Monday in his stall at Belmont Park. The son of Kris S. was outfitted with soft casts and bandages on both legs for support. Donk said Sharp Performance, who is being attended to by Dr. Jim Hunt, would be evaluated later on Monday when the casts and bandages were removed.

Donk said there is concern that Sharp Performance could suffer laminitis, a serious condition commonly known as founder that affects the hooves when the blood supply to that area is compromised.

"He's torn all his suspensory ligaments in both ankles, which now have nothing to support them," Donk said. "He's stabilized and we will try to change the bandages later today. Both legs are equally as bad. You would call this injury very, very uncommon to happen in both legs. His laying down at least 95 percent of the time. Vets will tell you soft tissue damage is more painful than bone injuries."

Sharp Performance, a graded stakes winner who showed an abundance of talent last year, winning four of six starts, was making his first start of the year in the Fort Marcy. Running as the favorite, Sharp Performance was launching a bid for the lead in deep stretch when he bobbled and was pulled up by jockey John Velazquez.

The condition of the turf course was listed as yielding after heavy rains last week. Donk, who won a turf race two races before the Fort Marcy, did not blame the course condition for Sharp Performance's injuries.

Donk said Sharp Performance, who is owned by William Bloom, John Behrendt, and Charles Marquis, is one of the best horses he has ever trained.

"I hope we can save him as a stud prospect," Donk said. "This is a really good horse."

Xtra Heat might run next on May 12

Xtra Heat could make her first start since finishing third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 23 in the $150,000 Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont Park on May 12.

Xtra Heat, who worked a bullet five furlongs in 58 seconds flat at Laurel Park last Friday, is nominated to the Genuine Risk, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares. Last year's champion 3-year-old filly, she also will be nominated to the $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap on Preakness Day, May 18, at Pimlico. The Pimlico race, a Grade 3, is open to both males and females.

Xtra Heat's trainer, John Salzman, said he will evaluate the weights for both races before making a decision, but is leaning toward the Grade 2 Genuine Risk.

"She's been beaten by the boys every time she has run with them, although those efforts weren't a disgrace," Salzman said. "She runs hard every time and I would like to run her where she has a chance."

Last year at Belmont Park, Xtra Heat won the Grade 1 Prioress and was second in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, which is Salzman's ultimate goal for Xtra Heat this year.

Smooth Jazz back sprinting in feature

Smooth Jazz, back at what he does best, sprinting, is the horse to beat in Wednesday's $45,000 allowance feature.

Wednesday's card begins the final five days of the Aqueduct meet. Racing moves to Belmont Park on May 8.

Eight 3-year-olds and older horses entered the six-furlong race for nonwinners of three races lifetime.

After winning his first two career starts for trainer Tony Dutrow at Aqueduct, including the Best Turn Stakes, Smooth Jazz was bought by Michael Tabor and given to Todd Pletcher to train. In his first start for the new connections, Smooth Jazz was crushed in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby after engaging in a suicidal pace duel. Smooth Jazz staggered home 10th, beaten 35 1/4 lengths.

Pletcher is using Wednesday's allowance race as a stepping-stone to the $150,000 Riva Ridge, a seven-furlong stakes for 3-year-olds on June 8, Belmont Stakes Day.

John Velazquez has the mount on Smooth Jazz, who drew post 5 and carries 114 pounds, seven less than his older rivals.

Velazquez is in a tight battle with Shaun Bridgmohan for leading rider at the Aqueduct spring meet. Heading into Wednesday's card, Velazquez, with 31 winners, held a two-win lead over Bridgmohan.

Convenir will be tough if he runs back to his three-length maiden win last year at Aqueduct, when he covered six furlongs in 1:09.65 after blazing a half-mile in 44.76 seconds.

* The possible lineup for Saturday's $150,000 Withers is Carey's Gold, Fast Decision, Listen Here, Lord ofthe Thunder, Marasca, Monthir, and Warners. The Grade 3 Withers is for 3-year-olds at a mile.

* Trainer Edward Barker was given a 60-day suspension by the stewards for a post-race positive for bupivacaine. The Conquerer, a horse trained by Barker, tested positive for the medication after finishing third in a race at Aqueduct on Jan. 16. Barker has appealed the suspension, and a stay has been granted.

* Veterinarian Thomas Gorman was fined $200 by the stewards for failing to follow proper Lasix procedures, which necessitated a late scratch in the third race last Saturday.