05/14/2003 12:00AM

Unplanned jaunt by Lawbook delays his comeback

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MIAMI - It has been seven months since Lawbook last raced. And now, trainer Thomas Heard Jr. will have to wait even longer to start his star 3-year-old after Lawbook dropped his exercise rider and ran off on the training track last Saturday, the day before he was scheduled to begin his comeback in the $40,000 Western Borders Stakes.

"He had already galloped once around the training track when the kid came off," Heard said. "Then he ran off about three miles once getting loose. And I mean really ran off. One observer said he must have gone five furlongs in 58 and change, he was going so fast. It was just like a work. He grabbed a quarter, took a little nick off. I couldn't run him after all that."

Heard scratched Lawbook from the Western Borders, instead sending out his stablemate Laughing Luke, who finished a distant third behind runaway winner Awesome of Course in the six-furlong dash.

Lawbook was the leader of the 2-year-old division here last summer after winning the opening two legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes. His attempt to sweep the Stallion series was foiled by a troubled sixth-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile In Reality Stakes, after which he was sidelined by a suspensory injury suffered during the race.

"I gave him a couple of blisters and six months off," said Heard. "A few weeks ago I had the vet check him, and he said he couldn't even tell which leg had the problem. That made me feel pretty good."

Heard said he would look for the next spot available for Lawbook, who was scheduled to race in blinkers for the first time in the Western Borders. He added that the $300,000 Carry Back Stakes on July 12 could be the first major goal for the colt, a son of Notebook.

'Awesome' the right word

While Lawbook remained behind in the barn, Awesome of Course stamped himself as a key contender for the Carry Back when he drew off to an 11-length victory in the Western Borders. His final time of 1:11 was excellent considering it came over what has been a very slow racetrack.

"He's been training excellent," said Jim Hatchett, who trains Awesome of Course for his breeders, the Jacks or Better Farm. "He'll have one more race before the Carry Back."

On Tuesday, things did not turn out quite so well for Hatchett and Jacks or Better when Massive finished third as a 1-2 favorite in a second-level optional claiming race. Massive had been entered in the Western Borders but was scratched from that race and faced older horses for the first time Tuesday.

Hatchett said he is also considering the Carry Back for Massive.

Crafty Brat vs. Storm Flag, take 3

Crafty Brat and Storm Flag also figure to be in action on the July 12 Summit of Speed program, facing off once again in the $300,000 Azalea Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Crafty Brat defeated the incredibly fast Storm Flag for the second time in as many meetings, winning by a neck in Monday's $41,925 Supah Jess Stakes. Storm Flag, whose only losses in five starts have come at the hands of Crafty Brat, set fractions of 21.38 seconds and 43.85 for the opening quarter and half-mile of the six-furlong dash.

Home sweet home for Velasquez

Cornelio Velasquez will not defend his Calder riding title now that he has moved his tack to the Kentucky circuit. But his presence is still being felt here.

Velasquez, whose family remained behind in south Florida, has returned home and ridden here on each of the past two Monday and Tuesday programs. He posted a hat trick here Tuesday that included a victory aboard Love My Mountain in the main event.

Velasquez, the leading jockey at Churchill Downs, has also ridden six winners at the Calder meet - a performance good enough to place him in the top 10 in the local standings for the meet.

Manoel Cruz, who was a distant second behind Velasquez during the 2002 Calder meet, has taken advantage of his colleague's absence to open a commanding lead in his quest for his first local riding title.