03/27/2006 12:00AM

Werner inclined to keep Ermine fresh for Oaks

Jeff Coady / Coady Photography
Ermine, winning the Honeybee, is a candidate for the Fantasy on April 14.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Ermine could train straight up to the Kentucky Oaks off her impressive win Saturday in the $75,000 Honeybee at Oaklawn Park. That is one plan trainer Ronny Werner is considering for Ermine, who also remains a candidate for the Grade 2, $250,000 Fantasy at Oaklawn on April 14.

Ermine is the type of filly who might benefit from more time between races than the three weeks from the Honeybee to the Fantasy, Werner said. The Kentucky Oaks will be run May 5.

"That would give her roughly six weeks," said Werner. "Three weeks is always tight. These stakes horses, they give you a lot. They really lay it out there for you. For that reason, they really need that time in between. I think they need at least a month.

"She's gotten a little lighter. I'd like to get a little more weight on her. We'll just see how she gets in the [feed] tub."

Ermine won her maiden at Oaklawn in February, then came back and won the Honeybee and earned a career-best Beyer Figure of 93.

Werner has another quality 3-year-old in the colt High Venture. A two-time sprint winner here, he is being pointed for the $100,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds at one mile at Oaklawn on April 15.

"I want to stretch him, so I think we're going to try him there," said Werner, who trains High Venture, a son of High Yield, for Don and Pam Mattox.

High Venture won a six-furlong optional claimer over stakes winner Catonight here in his last start, covering the distance in a sharp 1:10.71. He is a sibling to Grade 3 winner Meadow Gem.

Arkansas Derby for Sayhellotolarry?

Sayhellotolarry worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00.24 at Oaklawn early Sunday in preparation for his stakes debut, which will come in either the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 15 or the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 8.

"A final decision hasn't been made," Harold Williams, who trains Sayhellotolarry, said Monday. "It will be made in the next few days."

Sayhellotolarry's work was the fastest of 38 at the distance. Clockers tracked him through an opening eighth in 12.36 seconds, the first quarter in 24.57, three furlongs in 37.07, and carried him out six furlongs in 1:13.08. Sayhellotolarry's next scheduled work is Sunday.

"This is the one work I wanted to go ahead and let him get something out of it," said Williams. "The fractions were fairly even, whereas normally he'll start out slower and finish a little faster. We're happy with the work. He did it nicely."

Sayhellotolarry won his maiden by 6 1/4 lengths in his fifth career start Feb. 11. The win caught the attention of many because his time for the 1 1/16 miles was .20 of a second faster than Rockport Harbor's winning time for the same distance in the Grade 3, $100,000 Essex Handicap one race later. Sayhellotolarry scored a four-length win in an optional claiming route in his next start, after being forced to check in the first turn.

"The two wins he's had here have given him a lot of confidence," said Williams. "It seems he's a changed colt since he first got here. He's going in the right direction at the right time, so were going to give him a try.

"The timing of the Chicago race is a positive, but staying home and racing on a track we know he likes weighs heavily, too. But the idea of taking on Lawyer Ron and company isn't terribly exciting. Either race is going to be tough, and a big step up for him, obviously."

Williams is the grandson of Frances Genter, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1990 with Unbridled. Sayhellotolarry will be Williams's first starter in a major prep for the Kentucky Derby. Sayhellotolarry is a son of Victory Gallop and out of English Bay, who won the Bay Meadows Oaks.

"He has a little bit of presence about him," Williams said of Sayhellotolarry. "The two things that he has going for him is that he takes a lot in stride on the racetrack. He had trouble in his last race and he didn't get upset about it. So, that goes a long way. And, he's got a lot of [lung capacity]."

Calvin Borel has the mount for either the Illinois Derby or Arkansas Derby.

Round Pond, Happy Ticket work

Round Pond and Happy Ticket, who finished a neck apart in the Grade 3 Azeri, both tuned up for their rematch, which will come in the Grade 1, $500,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 8.

Round Pond worked at Oaklawn after the renovation break and went five furlongs in 1:00.93, the third-fastest time at the distance Sunday. Ridden by regular rider Stewart Elliott, her fractions were 12.32 for the opening eighth, 24.51 for the first quarter, 37.02 for three furlongs, and 1:13.73 for six furlongs.

"She worked great," said John Servis, who trains Round Pond. "She cooled out great. She's doing very good."

Happy Ticket went five furlongs at Louisiana Downs in 1:01.40, breezing, the ninth-fastest of 32 moves. Andrew Leggio trains Happy Ticket.