03/12/2009 11:00PM

Wood Memorial next up for Al Khali

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BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Al Khali, who made a successful North American and 3-year-old debut by winning an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on March 6, will make his next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 4, trainer Todd Pletcher said Friday.

Al Khali, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, won two of three races in Peru as a 2-year-old. He was purchased privately by WinStar Farm and turned over to Pletcher last fall. The colt had worked eight times leading up to his first start, including a bullet five-furlong move in 59.80 seconds five days before his allowance win.

"He gradually improved as he went along," Pletcher said at the Palm Meadows training center. "His work before he ran was very good."

In his race, Al Khali raced three wide throughout under John Velazquez, then altered course to rally up the inside when Atomic Rain drifted out in the stretch. Al Khali ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:51.39 and earned an 83 Beyer Speed Figure.

"I thought for the first time in this country, first time around two turns, it was a good effort," Pletcher said. "Johnny felt like there was more there, and he was still learning a bit. It'll be interesting to see how he continues to train after the race."

Pletcher said Velazquez would ride Al Khali in the Wood, which will be headed by Gotham one-two finishers I Want Revenge and Imperial Council.

Justwhistledixie drills for Bonnie Miss

Justwhistledixie, winner of the Grade 2 Davona Dale on March 1, worked four furlongs in 49.40 seconds Friday morning at Palm Meadows in preparation for a start in the Grade 2, $150,000 Bonnie Miss Stakes at Gulfstream on March 27.

After losing her first two starts, Justwhistledixie has reeled off four consecutive victories, including her 3 3/4-length score in the one-mile Davona Dale for which she earned a 97 Beyer.

"She seemed to like the added distance of a mile," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We'll see if she can get to the mile and an eighth and then see if she can get to Stardom Bound on May 1st."

McLaughlin was referring to the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Justwhistledixie was the favorite after Thursday's opening day of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, though the handle was only $5,889.

McLaughlin said Julien Leparoux would ride Justwhistledixie in the Bonnie Miss because regular rider Alan Garcia will be in Dubai at that time.

Better Talk Now, Rebellion work

The 10-year-old Better Talk Now and his 6-year-old stablemate Rebellion are helping each other get ready for their seasonal debuts.

Both horses worked an easy half-mile in 55 seconds over the Palm Meadows turf course Friday. It was the fourth time the two have worked in company this winter. Both horses are pointing to races at Keeneland. Better Talk Now will likely start in the Grade 2, $200,000 Elkhorn on April 24, while Rebellion is expected to start April 11 in the Grade 2 Commonwealth, a race he won last year.

"It's actually kind of been fun to have them on the same schedule," trainer Graham Motion said. "They've been good company for each other."

Motion said Better Talk Now, who has won $4.2 million by winning 14 of his 48 starts, is not acting his age.

"He's in great form, I couldn't be happier with him," Motion said. "It's a lofty goal, but I'd love to win a Grade 1 race with him as a 10-year-old. The way he is right now, I don't see why he shouldn't, and quite frankly he should have won the Manhattan last year."

Better Talk Now last won in the Manhattan in 2007 and finished a troubled fifth in that race last year.

After winning the Commonwealth, Rebellion came back to win the Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill Downs. He has lost his last five races but was second in the Pat O'Brien and second in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Capt. Candyman Can to Bay Shore

Trainer Ian Wilkes experimented Friday morning by having Capt. Candyman Can work on the turf at Palm Meadows. After the 3-year-old son of Candy Ride went a half-mile in 54.85 seconds, Wilkes knew that turf was not in the colt's future.

"I think I'll keep him on the dirt," Wilkes said.

He will also keep the colt in one-turn races. Wilkes will point Capt. Candyman Can to the $200,000 Bay Shore Stakes going seven furlongs at Aqueduct on April 4.

"I think it fits our plans," said Wilkes, who liked the fact that the Bay Shore is a week later than Gulfstream's Swale at the same distance. "I think that track will suit him up there."

Capt. Candyman Can has won 3 of 6 starts, including the Grade 3 Iroquois at a mile last fall and the Grade 2 Hutcheson going seven furlongs at Gulfstream on Jan. 30.

Wicked Style back to winner's circle

It isn't often you see a Grade 1 winner win an allowance race and pay $73.20, but that was the case Thursday at Gulfstream.

Wicked Style, who had lost five consecutive races since capturing the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in 2007, won a 1 1/8-mile turf allowance race Thursday by a half-length. He was the second-longest shot in the field of 10.

According to trainer Rusty Arnold, Wicked Style suffered a condylar fracture when he finished 10th of 11 in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Believing it was healed, Arnold brought Wicked Style back in May, but after two poor efforts on turf and another bad effort at Arlington on Polytrack, Arnold stopped on the colt again.

It was then discovered that Wicked Style had a previously undetected hairline fracture in the same leg. It may have branched off from the original fracture, Arnold said. After that healed, Arnold opted to try the dirt again at Gulfstream on Feb. 12, but Wicked Style finished last, which is why he put him back on the turf Thursday.

"He trained fabulous all winter, perfectly sound," Arnold said Friday. "I decided to run him on the dirt and I loved him that day, but he basically was pulled up. I thought, maybe he's a Polytrack and turf horse, thus yesterday."

Arnold, who will have divisions at Keeneland and Arlington, said he will now keep Wicked Style on turf or Polytrack.

Benefit scheduled for exercise rider

A benefit concert will be held at Gulfstream Park on March 23 for Jimmy Rivera, an exercise rider who was disabled after being involved in a spill at Calder on Nov. 25. Rivera, who worked for trainer Bill White, remains at the Jackson Memorial Trauma Center in south Florida.

Rivera and his wife, June, have three children, ages 16, 22, and 25.

In addition to the concert, a silent auction will be held during the four-hour event, which begins at 6 p.m. Tickets for the event are $20. For information, contact A.J. Prasaguet, (786) 837-4741.