04/24/2002 12:00AM

You speeds along in Oaks work


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - You had a terrific work Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs, going six furlongs in 1:13.20 over a fast track. Next Friday she will attempt to give Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel his third Kentucky Oaks victory in the last five runnings.

Frankel, who won the Oaks in 1998 with Keeper Hill and last year with Flute, said You is "doing as good as any filly I've had coming into this race. She's really getting over this track good."

Frankel is aware that the Oaks is as deep and contentious as any in recent memory. "It's like everybody's saying, it might be stronger than [the Derby]," he said, adding that he believes Bella Bellucci and Take Charge Lady are the horses to beat.

After her sparkling workout, which came with Marco Ramirez aboard, You clearly has to be considered among that group of Oaks favorites. You, a You and I filly whose career debut was a victory in a $50,000 maiden-claiming race here last spring, was bought privately by Frankel for owner Edmund Gunn and has since gone on to win three Grade 1 races.

You was one of three Oaks fillies to work Wednesday. Habibti, trained by Bob Baffert, went six furlongs in 1:13.40 in company with stablemate Danthebluegrassman, and Ms Brookski went five furlongs in 1:00.60 when encountering unexpected traffic.

Habibti, said Baffert, is "doing better" than when she left California. "It's taken a while for me to get her back. Today there was some bounce to the track, which I think she liked."

Niall O'Callaghan, who assumed the training of Ms Brookski about a month ago, said he has been pleased with the filly's progress. Ms Brookski had been trained and co-owned by Reed Combest in Florida before being purchased by Gary Tanaka.

"She's done all the things you look for when you first get a horse," said O'Callaghan.

O'Callaghan also reported he will not run Chamrousse in the Oaks. "She's only had five races, and this Oaks is one of the toughest in a long time," he said. "We'll wait for the [May 17] Black-Eyed Susan or an allowance race."

The defection of Chamrousse leaves the 128th Oaks with a field of 10 3-year-old fillies. See How She Runs, who would have to be supplemented for $25,000, is a possible 11th starter. The other prospects are Belterra, Imperial Gesture, Lake Lady, Take the Cake, and Tempera.

Ankle chip surgery for Ethan Man

Ethan Man, never a factor when fifth as the favorite in the Lexington Stakes last weekend at Keeneland, was scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery Thursday for a small ankle chip in his left front ankle, said trainer Pat Byrne.

"He cooled out fine Saturday, but the next day there was some filling in the ankle," said Byrne. "He's still walking sound, but the X-rays showed a tiny chip."

Byrne said Ethan Man's Lexington effort "was just too bad for me not to believe something was wrong. I don't know where or when he did it. He's better than what he showed Saturday."

Byrne said he expects Ethan Man, winner of the March 16 Swale Stakes in his previous start for West Point Thoroughbreds, "hopefully will make it back to the races at Saratoga."

Stephentown back in training

Stephentown, the colt who made a terrific impression early this year at Gulfstream but was taken off the Kentucky Derby trail several days before the March 16 Florida Derby, is back in serious training for Tony Reinstedler.

Wednesday, Stephentown breezed a half-mile in 48 seconds, marking his third breeze since returning to Reinstedler's Churchill barn earlier this month.

"I thought he worked awesome," said Reinstedler. "Right now, we're playing it one day at a time. He'll have one more serious work, and if everything goes right, we might show up here in a two-other-than allowance race."

Stephentown, a Wild Again colt owned by Willmott Stables, was withdrawn from the Florida Derby after suffering what Reinstedler described as a slightly jammed shoulder when training March 11. The colt then was sent to Longfield Farm for a brief rest before returning to training.

Scheduling blip

There is no shortage of races in Kentucky for top-class 3-year-old fillies on dirt.

On the whirlwind schedule is the Bourbonette on March 23, the Ashland on April 6, the Stonerside Beaumont on April 26, the La Troienne on May 2, and the Kentucky Oaks on May 3.

The greatest conflict will be between the Beaumont and La Troienne, which are run at essentially the same distance, only six days apart. In previous years, the Beaumont was run 12 days before the La Troienne, but there was a last-minute switch this year. Stonerside owner Bob McNair, whose expansion football team, the Houston Texans, will make its NFL debut this fall, had to be at the NFL draft on April 21, which had been the traditional date for the Beaumont.

Keeneland officials say they hope to avoid such an overlap next year, most likely by running the Beaumont earlier than closing day.

Frankel's plan

Frankel, who was fairly active at the Keeneland meet, has 15 horses in Barn 43 at Churchill, but they will all be leaving after the Derby.

"I've probably got five or six more to run here Derby week," said Frankel.

Frankel's departure is somewhat typical of how the stall situation evolves at the Churchill spring meet. Stalls become available to trainers who for the last two months have been unable to get them, somewhat easing Churchill's chronic stall crunch.