03/22/2002 1:00AM

Vienna loves Euro bargains


NEW ORLEANS - There are different kinds of horses out there to buy. Do you want raw material - young horseflesh to be groomed and developed? Or do you want the full-grown model, the horse who has already gone through growth spurts, been put through lessons, and has made it to the races?

Darrell Vienna has been involved with both types, but as his experience as a horseman grew he became less and less satisfied with the practice of buying young horses at auction.

"I've bought yearlings and 2-year-olds," Vienna said. "There's just too much risk. You can buy a horse that turns out to be successful, and he still might not earn enough."

Vienna's realization led him to the older-horse market and into Europe. Now, a great deal of his California-based barn comprises former runners culled, in one way or another, from European stables. "In Europe, you can buy a horse with established form, and probably pay less for him, too," Vienna said.

One of these former Euros is Suances, who is set to make a belated North American debut for Vienna and his principal owner, Jed Cohen's Red Baron's Barn, in Sunday's Explosive Bid Handicap at Fair Grounds. Suances already has won a Group 1 for Cohen, but that was almost two years ago. After being imported, Suances was ready to race two summers ago in the American Derby at Arlington Park, but suffered a serious injury that kept him away from the races until now.

Suances was not a typical purchase for Vienna and Cohen. They often wind up with European horses that have outlived their usefulness in one way or another; handicap horses who aren't of group stakes quality and are being asked to carry too much weight; or allowance-type horses whose careers have hit a holding pattern. Through public auction or a private bloodstock agent, Cohen purchases the animal and sends it to Vienna in California, where he tries to make an American racehorse out of it.

Suances was different. He started his career in Spain, the minor leagues, but when brought by his Spanish connections to France after four straight wins, he quickly won a Group 3 race.

"A bloodstock agent, Hubert Guy, called and said there was a horse for sale," said Vienna. "You don't usually get a chance to buy a horse like this. We flew over to take a look. I wasn't impressed as much with him as an individual, but I really liked the way he trained. He cost a lot of money."

Running in Cohen's colors, Suances won the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat by six lengths over Bach, who finished third last fall in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Suances had not fully acclimated to American-style training when injury struck him as a 3-year-old. He was used to galloping through fields and woods, spending a couple hours each day out of his stall, not the daily grind of American backstretch life, with its limited exercise time and humdrum daily regimen. Over time, Suances has become more of an "American horse," Vienna said, at least in his training. Now, Vienna, Cohen, and the rest of us find out if that goes for racing, too.

Texas Mile may be next for Valhol

Valhol has returned to regular training and Tuesday had his first breeze since his eighth-place finish in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap earlier this month.

Valhol was sore coming out of the New Orleans Handicap, and trainer Dallas Keen worried that he had suffered an injury, but even though Valhol took a couple bad steps on concrete the day after his workout, Keen said he can find nothing wrong with the gelding.

Said Keen, "He was fine when he went back to the track" two days after his work.

Keen said he's considering the Texas Mile at Lone Star for Valhol's next race.

Martin will summer in Delaware

Eddie Martin, who is poised to win his first Fair Grounds riding title, will ride at Keeneland in April, then test the waters at Delaware Park in May, according to his agent, Bobby Kelly. Martin has never ridden regularly at Delaware, but enjoys strong support from trainer Mike Pino, who has had good Delaware meets the last couple seasons.

"If it doesn't work out, then we can go to Chicago," Kelly said.

Through Thursday, Martin led Robby Albarado by 11 wins, 115-104, in the local standings.

Clergy returns to sprinting

The 3-year-old gelding Clergy, who suffered his first defeat in a division of the one-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park, will return to sprint racing in his next start, trainer Frank Brothers said. Clergy will run next at Keeneland, either in an allowance race or the Grade 3 Lafayette Stakes at seven furlongs.

Clergy won two sprint races at Fair Grounds to begin his career before finishing fourth in the Southwest after pressing a swift early pace. "I wouldn't rule out stretching him back out again at some point," Brothers said.