01/02/2008 1:00AM

Verify, Sacred Journey will sit back


NEW ORLEANS - Verify has already learned from Steve Asmussen the lesson Dallas Stewart is teaching Sacred Journey: how to relax. When the two break from posts 1 and 2 in Friday's ninth race, a six-furlong first-level allowance on dirt, we will get to see how well they've learned their lessons.

It took four races for Verify to win his maiden, with Asmussen trying him in two sprints and a mile stakes race before Verify learned to rate and win last time out in a maiden special weight at Remington Park on Nov. 25.

"We were a little disappointed in his first couple of races," said Asmussen. "However, his last race was excellent. He flew. He seemed to respond to rating, and we'll do it again."

While Verify has learned how to rate, Sacred Journey has been all speed in his two races. In his first out, at Churchill, he went to the front before fading in the stretch. His last outing, a maiden special weight on Dec. 9 at Fair Grounds, saw him wire the field, galloping home eight lengths in front.

Although the maiden victory was a step forward, Stewart wants Sacred Journey to learn a lesson before he stretches him out.

"We'll give him one more short race," Stewart said of Friday's race. "He's got a lot of speed. We're trying to teach him to relax. We're hoping to get him to mature and harness his speed."

With the two likely favorites breaking from the inside post positions and being asked to rate, the job of setting the pace will likely fall upon Harlan's Fortune, who has raced to the front in five out of his six races, but only managed to make it stick once.

His last race was a fourth-place finish in the Sugar Bowl Stakes on Dec. 22, and he could find the going easier on Friday and have something left at the end.

Another contender is Net Present Value, winner last out in a $25,000 claiming race. Claimed from that race, Net Present Value steps up and could be competitive with a forward move.

The wild card in the race is The Last Wave, who moves into Leo Gabriel's barn after coming home 9 1/2 lengths in front in a maiden-claiming race at Hawthorne. He'll face much better horses in this race, but he gets leading rider Jamie Theriot, and Gabriel has been profitable with horses making their first start for him.