Preakness new focus for 'Twist'


Maryland-based Oliver's Twist was shipped to Gulfstream Park this winter to face the best of the nation's 3-year-old crop. It was a proving ground that might have carried him into the Kentucky Derby.

But after three defeats, a possible Run for the Roses has been scrapped in favor of a quest for the black-eyed Susans.

"He might be a notch below the best, but we had to find out some time," trainer Billy Boniface said. "It seemed like a good plan and we had hopes, but they didn't work out."

Boniface said instead of the Derby, Oliver's Twist is being pointed toward the Preakness on May 20, with the Grade III Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico serving as the final prep race.

But first, Oliver's Twist will be the probable favorite in today's $50,000-added Private Terms Stakes, the final Saturday feature of the Laurel Park winter meet.

Ten are slated to go in the 1 1/16th-mile event, with Oliver's Twist and He's Got Gall, another Triple Crown nominee, as the headliners.

"He's worked real good up to this race," Boniface said of Oliver's Twist, who faced top Derby contenders Thunder Gulch and Suave Prospect in Florida.

"The horse acclimated well coming up from Florida. I think he's glad to be home. His final work for this race was three-quarters [six furlongs], and I liked the way he looked."

Boniface said Oliver's Twist "had excuses" in his first two Florida races, a $40,000 allowance test and the Grade II Fountain of Youth. But, Boniface added, "He got beat legitimately" in the Grade I Florida Derby, finishing fifth, 7 1/2 lengths behind victorious Thunder Gulch.

"That's when we sort of put the Derby out of our minds," said Boniface. "He had some good horses finish behind him in Florida, but this race to the Tesio to the Preakness seemed the way to go."

He's Got Gall won the Herat Stakes on March 4, his third victory in five starts. Trained by Carlos Garcia, the son of Marine Brass has never been off the board and appears improved with each outing.

"He appears to be coming into form," Boniface said of his chief rival. "The last time [in the Herat] he was very strong the final eighth of a mile."

Previous winners of the Private Terms include Baron de Vaux, Ameri Valay and Looming last year. The race will be included as part of the weekly National Best Seven wager.

NOTES: Racing will switch to Pimlico Race Course beginning Tuesday. Post time will be 12:30 p.m. the first day and 1 p.m. thereafter at the old track, which has been partially renovated. . . . Jockey Frank Douglas, who was involved in a spill Thursday, took off his mounts yesterday. . . . Today's card also features simulcast betting on the Grade II $600,000 Jim Beam Stakes, richest of the Triple Crown preps. The D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly Serena's Song looms as the favorite. . . . Another Tesio probable, Western Echo, had a blistering 58 4/5 work for five furlongs yesterday morning. . . . Jockey Edgar Prado is within four of 2,000 career victories.

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