05/15/2005 11:00PM

Zito's trio creates full house

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Noble Causeway, breezing Monday with Maxine Correa, is part of trainer Nick Zito's three-horse entry with Sun King and High Fly.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The 14-horse maximum for the 130th Preakness Stakes seemed assured Monday morning when trainer Nick Zito said he most likely will enter all three of the horses he has been considering for the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico.

Zito sent Noble Causeway and Sun King out for separate workouts early Monday at Churchill Downs, then said afterward that those two colts definitely would be entered Wednesday, when post positions are drawn in downtown Baltimore for the Saturday race. Zito also said he will have a third starter, High Fly, assuming the colt proceeds smoothly through a half-mile workout that was scheduled for Tuesday morning at Churchill.

A 14-horse field would mark the largest in the Preakness since Pine Bluff prevailed over 13 others in the 1992 running. The size of the field is partly a reflection of the confounding results of the May 7 Kentucky Derby, in which Giacomo, a 50-1 shot, won by a half-length over Closing Argument, a 71-1 shot.

"You can't take anything away from Giacomo," said Zito. "We saluted him Saturday. Now we're going to take another shot at beating him."

On a chilly morning, and on a fast track, Noble Causeway was the first to work, going solo under Maxine Correa. After breezing five furlongs in 1:02.60, he was kept to his task and was still galloping out strongly as he entered the backstretch.

"It looked like he went super," said Zito. "I'm happy about it."

Sun King, also with Correa up, worked in company soon afterward. After spotting Indy Storm, a 3-year-old allowance horse, about a length at the five-furlong pole, Sun King finished about eight lengths ahead of his workmate, timed in 1:01.20.

Sun King, said Zito, "was just galloping out there. I worked him in company just to make sure he kept his mind on business. It looks like it worked out well."

Zito had five starters in the Derby, including 5-2 favorite Bellamy Road, only to come away extremely disappointed. Bellamy Road finished seventh, and Andromeda's Hero, who is being pointed for the June 11 Belmont Stakes, ran eighth. Zito's three Preakness starters finished even farther back: High Fly was 10th, Noble Causeway was 14th, and Sun King was 15th.

Confirmation of the three Zito horses for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness brings the number of prospects to 15, meaning that if all are entered Wednesday, the one exclusion would be Golden Man, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr. Golden Man is last on the three-tiered earnings system that governs eligibility into the race.

The annual post draw show will be held again at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore. The draw will be part of "Sports Center at the Preakness," which starts at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Two charter flights from Louisville to Baltimore are scheduled for Wednesday morning. Giacomo and the Zito horses are booked on the second flight, which will take off at about noon.

Giacomo appears energetic during long gallop

Also at Churchill Monday, Giacomo spent about 30 minutes on the racetrack and appears to be thriving in the aftermath of his Derby upset. With regular exercise rider Frankie Herrarte up, Giacomo spent about 10 minutes loosening up in the mile chute, then showed good energy throughout a two-mile gallop.

"The horse is looking good," said trainer John Shirreffs, who came to Churchill on Monday morning directly from the Louisville airport after taking a red-eye flight from California. Shirreffs and jockey Mike Smith were among the honored guests at a Sunday night party at the Beverly Hills home of Giacomo's owners, Jerry and Ann Moss.

Shirreffs said he was considering a half-mile workout for Giacomo on Tuesday morning.

Also at Churchill Monday, Going Wild, who figures as a Preakness longshot after finishing 18th in the Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

One more Preakness prospect, Wilko, was scheduled to have a three- or four-furlong breeze Tuesday at Churchill, said trainer Craig Dollase.

Last of the two-a-days for Afleet Alex

At Pimlico, Afleet Alex had another of his busy mornings when he trained a total of five miles during two different sessions. Trainer Tim Ritchey said Monday would be the last of the two-a-days before the Preakness.

"We'll taper off from here," said Ritchey. "You build up and taper off, just like a human athlete."

Afleet Alex jogged two miles early, then returned later to jog about seven furlongs before galloping another 2 1/4 miles.

For nearly a week, Afleet Alex had been the only Preakness prospect at Pimlico, until Monday afternoon, when Scrappy T, trained by Robbie Bailes, arrived shortly before 2 p.m. following a short van ride from Delaware Park. More horses were soon to follow.

Afleet Alex, said Ritchey, "loves it here. He's a happy horse. I think it's an advantage being here. I guess I'm the only one who feels that way. Getting a horse accustomed to his surroundings has got to help. When the others get here, it's going to be hectic. I don't know how much they'll be able to settle."

Closing Argument faster than usual

At Belmont Park, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin pulled a stopwatch out of his pocket and the time on it read 52.53 seconds. It was the gallop-out time for a 2-year-old McLaughlin had worked earlier in the morning, but it would have sufficed had it been the final time for Kentucky Derby runner-up Closing Argument's final Preakness breeze.

A few minutes later, McLaughlin did a double-take after Closing Argument worked four furlongs in 49.03 seconds Monday morning. Closing Argument is not deemed a particularly fast work horse, especially by himself, as was the case Monday.

"That was a good work, whatever the time,'' said McLaughlin, who noted that Closing Argument kept a straighter path through the stretch than he had in his last work before the Kentucky Derby. "I didn't want to do that much anyway. He always needed company to get him going.''

McLaughlin took the work as another sign his horse bounced out of the Derby in good shape and can come back with another good effort in two weeks.

"He hasn't missed an oat since the race, which is very important,'' McLaughlin said. "We're fairly fresh compared to the rest of the 3-year-olds; he has only had three races this year.''

Closing Argument was scheduled to walk on Tuesday and Wednesday and ship to Pimlico on Wednesday.

High Limit will race with blinkers

Trainer Bobby Frankel toyed with the idea of equipping High Limit with blinkers for the Kentucky Derby, but said he wasn't "brave enough'' to do it. Apparently, Frankel is now over his fears.

Frankel said Monday that High Limit, who finished last in the Derby, would run with blinkers in Saturday's Preakness, more to make him focused than to put any more speed into the colt. Frankel said he believes High Limit is still a bit immature, as evidenced during a five-furlong workout of 1:00.20 Sunday at Churchill Downs. Rafael Bejarano was aboard for the work, but Frankel was not present.

"He was switching leads back and forth, wasn't paying attention,'' Frankel said Monday in his Belmont Park office. "He worked fast, but still he jumped shadows. So he's not paying attention.''

Frankel planned to have High Limit gallop in blinkers on Tuesday at Churchill. Frankel said he didn't regret not using blinkers in the Derby.

"That's not what got him beat,'' Frankel said.

High Limit finished last in the Kentucky Derby, but got stepped on by a trailing horse. Initially, Frankel thought High Limit could be out a month, but the morning after the Derby he realized the injury wasn't in a bad spot.

"It was right above the foot,'' Frankel said. "The only thing I can imagine is it stunned the horse or threw his action off.''

Frankel said he will instruct jockey Edgar Prado to let High Limit "run out of the gate'' in the Preakness.

* Pimlico linemaker Frank Carulli said he likely will make Afleet Alex the 5-2 favorite for the Preakness, followed by High Fly at about 9-2 and Giacomo at 6-1. Carulli said those odds might be altered somewhat, depending on the post draw. According to Carulli, Preakness starters breaking from post 8 or farther out are 4 for 101 in the past 15 runnings.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman and David Grening