06/20/2008 12:00AM

Water Gap's guys get what they deserve

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Charlie Wade was a horseman from a bygone era, a do-it-yourselfer who bred, owned, and trained his entire stable. As he grew older, Wade called on Roger Thomas for assistance, and Thomas complied, working tirelessly as a stablehand for Wade for the last 10 years or so.

When Wade died in early May at age 90, five of his horses were willed to Thomas. One of them was Water Gap, an 8-year-old mare who already had raced 76 times.

In her 77th start, and her first with Thomas as owner, Water Gap led wire-to-wire in a $49,800 turf allowance at Churchill Downs on May 30.

Sunday at Churchill, Water Gap will return to action in the featured ninth race.

Water Gap is "a one-in-a-thousand story, maybe one in a million," said Mike Trivigno, who accepted Thomas's offer to train Water Gap and one other former Wade horse, Gate House. "Roger did everything with Charlie's horses - galloped them, walked them, rubbed them. When that mare won first time out for him, it really was great for Roger."

Thomas now works for Trivigno, rubbing his own horses.

Trivigno himself is an interesting story. Based at Calder in the summer and fall of 1991, he trained a 2-year-old named Lil E. Tee for two races before the colt was sold privately for $200,000. Of course, Lil E. Tee went on to win the 1992 Kentucky Derby.

Trivigno, 69, has worked mostly in obscurity before and after that glimpse of glory. Having first worked as a stablehand in New Jersey since 1956, he moved his small string to Kentucky about a dozen years ago. He currently has 10 horses at the Trackside training center, including Water Gap, one of three horses (from 10 starters) that Trivigno has sent out to win at a pricey mutuel so far at the Churchill spring meet. Those winners were Loxahatchee ($44.40) on April 26, Amber Dubai ($110.20) on May 15, and Water Gap ($23.80) on May 30.

The Sunday feature appears to set up in much the same way as the last race for Water Gap. With only six fillies and mares in the field, Water Gap, with Fernando De La Cruz back aboard, will attempt to control the pace from the start of the 1 1/16-mile race.

"I would think she'll be a big contender again," said Trivigno.

Swingit and Ballado's Thunder, the respective two-three finishers in the May 30 race, are back to take another shot at Water Gap. Swingit, winner of the 2007 Edgewood Stakes, is a steady closer, while Ballado's Thunder, the odds-on favorite last out, has enough speed to be a serious challenger to Water Gap.

Meanwhile, Nice Inheritance clearly is the most dangerous newcomer. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Nice Inheritance was scratched from the May 30 race after capturing a $50,000 turf stakes at Louisiana Downs only six days beforehand. The 4-year-old filly since has been training on the Polytrack at Keeneland.

Asmussen deep in Debutante

Asmussen has six of the 25 fillies nominated to the next stakes at Churchill, the $100,000 Debutante Stakes next Saturday. Asmussen has won the last three runnings of the Grade 3 Debutante.

One of the his nominees, Ocean Colors, probably will skip the six-furlong Debutante in favor of the Schuylverville Stakes, the opening-day feature at Saratoga on July 23. Ocean Colors, out of 1988 Kentucky Derby winner Winning Colors, was an impressive winner of her career debut on June 13 at Churchill.

After the Debutante, three stakes remain at the meet: the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap on July 4, the Grade 3 Bashford Manor on July 5, and the Grade 3 Locust Grove Handicap on July 6.

Sedgefield looks to stand stud

Tommy and Bonnie Hamilton of Silverton Hill Farms are looking to stand Sedgefield at stud. A 4-year-old colt by Smart Strike, Sedgefield won twice from 14 career starts, with his most notable race his fifth-place finish in the 2007 Kentucky Derby.

Sedgefield failed to win in his five starts after the Derby. His final race was in April at Keeneland when he finished last in a turf allowance.

"He really laid it all on the line in the Derby," said trainer Darrin Miller. "We never quite got him back after that."

No Mother Goose for Acoma

Acoma will not run next Saturday in the Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont despite the recent defection of Zaftig, said trainer David Carroll.

"We've settled on the Coaching Club American Oaks, then on to the Alabama," said Carroll.

Acoma won the May 31 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill in her stakes debut. Zaftig, winner of the Grade 1 Acorn, is out of the Mother Goose with a foot bruise. Kentucky Oaks winner Proud Spell is the heavy favorite for the Mother Goose.

* Asmussen plans to breeze Curlin early Monday on the dirt at Churchill, marking the first work for the superstar colt since his 4 1/4-length triumph in the June 14 Stephen Foster Handicap. After that, a July 1 breeze on the Churchill turf is on the Curlin agenda.

* Trainer Mike Tomlinson, who sent out Kettleoneup to win the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap here last fall, said the 5-year-old mare is in foal to Bernardini. Kettleoneup, an earner of $659,297 from 21 starts, was retired after she was found to have an ankle chip following the May 2 Louisville Stakes at Churchill.

* Trainer Jimmy Baker said Elite Squadron, winner of the Churchill Downs Handicap and most recently third in the Aristides Stakes, is scheduled to leave June 30 for Hollywood Park, where the colt will run in the July 5 Triple Bend.