01/06/2003 1:00AM

Wertz always tries hard


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Every trainer should be fortunate enough to have a horse like Wertz in the barn at one time or another. That way, there would rarely be a chance to complain about the horse not giving his all.

Wertz, a 7-year-old horse, embodies the fighting spirit that so many Thoroughbreds have within them. And when he makes the 60th start of an understated but highly professional career in the feature race Wednesday at Gulfstream Park, Wertz will have an opportunity to further enhance his reputation for speed and gameness.

Trained since early last year by Calder veteran Joe Calascibetta, Wertz is part of a full field of older horses entered in the ninth race, a $40,000 optional claimer scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on turf. Judging by the way Wertz ran last month when Calascibetta brought him off a nearly four-month layoff to capture a five-furlong overnight handicap at Calder on Dec. 8, his rivals will have a lot of running to do to catch Wertz on this stretchout to two turns.

Owned by his breeders, the Sunshine Thoroughbred Corp., Wertz has compiled a record of 16 wins, 12 seconds, and 11 thirds from 59 starts. Invariably, he is on or near the pace, and more often that not, he is willing to stick around to the bitter end, something that could very well occur Wednesday if he is able to withstand pace pressure from a couple of other rapid veterans, Corporate Storm and Stans Dream.

If Wertz cannot carry his speed, then that could open the race to any number of closers, including Boastful, who figures to get a decent mid-pack trip under Jerry Bailey. Other possible closers from the main body of the race are Malmaison, Love the Game, Zloty, and Class of Seventy.

One of the more interesting entrants in the feature is Request for Parole, who makes his second start since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby last May. Request for Parole will attempt to rebound off a fifth-place finish in a Nov. 29 allowance at Aqueduct, his first start since Stan Hough assumed his training.

Two other allowance races also are carded for Wednesday, the fourth day of the meet. They go as the seventh and 10th races.

Field size again is encouraging Wednesday, as 114 horses, including 12 also-eligibles, were entered for the program.

First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.

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