04/10/2007 11:00PM

Two return to dirt, looking down the road to Louisville


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - For You Reppo and Storm in May bring similar storylines into the Grade 2, $1omillion Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday. Both are looking to punch their ticket to the Kentucky Derby, and each is returning to conventional dirt following a start on either turf or Polytrack.

For You Reppo has kept good company during his career, and is the lone Arkansas Derby starter with a win at the race's 1 1/8-mile distance. He accomplished that in February, when he won his maiden at Gulfstream Park.

For You Reppo then ran second to Chelokee in a first-level allowance. The third-place finisher from that race, Sightseeing, has since finished a big second in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. For You Reppo went on to finish fourth to Hard Spun in the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End in his last start March 24.

"We just wanted to get him back on the dirt and kind of get another shot and see if we belong or not," said Helen Pitts, who trains For You Reppo. "I don't think he was particularly fond of the Polytrack at Turfway."

Pitts said she looks for For You Reppo to sit just off the pace in the Arkansas Derby. He will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux.

Storm in May flew in from Florida on Wednesday. He was third last out in the Grade 3 Palm Beach, a 1 1/8-mile turf race at Gulfstream on March 24. Before that, he was a troubled sixth in the Grade 2 Hutcheson and won the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Dash, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds on Jan. 27.

"He's a very versatile colt," said Bill Kaplan, who trains Storm in May. "He had a very good race on the dirt in the Sunshine Millions and had primarily run in turf races before, so we wanted to give him one more shot at a Derby prep to see if he can handle two turns on the dirt.

"As soon as we won the Sunshine Millions, we started to think about a late Derby prep. We put him back on the grass and we thought we could get some Derby graded earnings there, and then this was the next logical step."

Juan Leyva has the call on Storm in May.

"He's a true rider's horse," said Kaplan. "He waits for the rider to tell him what to do, then he does exactly what he's told. He's very mature for his age."

Ermine gets extended vacation

Ermine, winner of the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap, will be freshened for about 60 days and target a return in the Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 16, said her trainer, Ronny Werner. Ermine was scheduled to ship this week from Oaklawn to Churchill.

"At this point, I think she needs a break," said Werner. "She's run three really, really hard races."

Ermine opened her 4-year-old season by finishing a close second in a pair of Grade 1 races in Southern California. She then shipped to Oaklawn for the Apple Blossom, which she won by 1 1/4 lengths over Grade 1 winner Take D' Tour.

"I thought it was another super effort," said Werner.

The Apple Blossom was the first Grade 1 win for Ermine. Werner said the year-end goal for the filly is the Breeders' Cup Distaff. The Grade 1, $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap at Saratoga could also be on her agenda.