04/30/2002 11:00PM

Which direction should Cashel Castle head next?


CICERO, Ill. - No worse for wear after suffering the first loss of his career last Saturday in the Derby Trial, Cashel Castle has returned to trainer Chris Block's barn at Hawthorne Race Course, where he will prepare for his next start. But now what?

Block isn't sure, though he has given the matter of Cashel Castle's summer campaign plenty of thought. The questions boil down to this: Does Block try to stretch Cashel Castle out to two-turn races, something the colt has never tried and might not like? Or does he restrict him to sprints in the coming months, pointing for races in New York like the Riva Ridge, the Amsterdam, and the Grade 1 King's Bishop?

Block said he will wait until next week, conferring with Cashel Castle's owner, Barry Buchholz of the Sandbar Farm, before plotting out a schedule. For now, he's happy Cashel Castle came back from the Derby Trial, run in a sea of mud at Churchill Downs, in good shape. Cashel Castle, who was 5 for 5 coming into the race, finished second behind Sky Terrace, a colt he had easily beaten three weeks earlier on a fast track at Keeneland. He appeared to dislike the sloppy going, something jockey Pat Day confirmed for Block after the race.

"Pat said he didn't extend himself out there," Block said. "He came back out of this less tired than the last one. It took him a good week or 10 days to come back. This time, I could see he was back the night of the race."

Block isn't letting the sting of the defeat linger. He said he made his peace with Cashel Castle's first loss on his way to the racetrack to unsaddle the horse. "I could tell he was struggling with the track," he said. "I don't think this takes anything away from him."

Long rest rejuvenates St. Remy

Apparently, some time off did St,. Remy good, even if 14 months is a bit of a long freshening between starts.

St. Remy had not raced since April 2001 when he returned to action here April 8, but his two starts at the Sportsman's meet have been sensational. St. Remy won a second-level allowance race by more than six lengths in his comeback, then stepped up the class ladder and did the same thing here Saturday. In both races, St. Remy burst to the lead from the starting gate and ran away from his opponents.

It was a long time coming, but St. Remy, thanks to trainer Mike Reavis, has finally made good on the $25,000 claim owner Rick Englander put in for the horse two Decembers ago.

"I got him off the farm," Reavis said. "[Englander] said I could run him for $25,000 [claiming], but he was doing too good. I was afraid I'd lose him for a tag. I guess he is pretty good right now, but you've got to take it race to race with him."

With that in mind, Reavis wasn't willing to commit to St. Remy's next start, saying only that the horse was eligible for a fourth-level allowance race, and that, with the Hawthorne meet upcoming, "we're stabled right here."

Block presents strong entry

Trainer Chris Block has limited his starts at the Sportsman's meet - his bread and butter is Arlington in the summer. But Block, with only 13 starters here, has entered two in Sportsman's Friday feature, a third-level allowance with a $35,000 claiming option, and both are contenders.

Lunar Star finished a distant second against open stakes company on April 14, while Tap Your Feet was second in an Illinois-bred stakes race when she made her first start of the season March 30. Jockey Eddie Razo was named on both halves of the Block-trained entry.

Lunar Star was beaten seven lengths in the Lady Hallie Handicap by Pretty Gale, who galloped alone on the lead, but what Lunar Star proved by beating six others for the place spot was that she's capable of finishing in a two-turn race.

Friday's race will be only her second start at a route of ground, and unlike in the Lady Hallie, where Lunar Star never was close to the lead, she should be prominent from the start in a somewhat paceless field.

By Dixieland Band out of a Miswaki mare, Tap Your Feet does not have the pedigree of a typical Illinois-bred, and indeed, she sold for $200,000 as a yearling. Now 4, Tap Your Feet was not a precocious filly, and this could turn into a breakout season for her if her development continues.