01/09/2006 1:00AM

Achilles of Troy grabs spotlight

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Achilles of Troy romps to victory in the Count Fleet on Saturday at Aqueduct in stakes-record time.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - When it comes to her horses, trainer Jennifer Pedersen is conservative by nature. That's why she expressed some trepidation about running Achilles of Troy in last Saturday's , nine days after he won a maiden race.

The person Pedersen works for, Ernie Paragallo, is anything but conservative. That's why he ran Achilles of Troy in the Count Fleet and then gave his trainer some ribbing after Achilles of Troy won by 14 lengths and set a stakes record by running the mile and 70 yards in 1:39.61.

At the very least, Achilles of Troy established himself as one to watch as 3-year-olds begin traveling down the road to the May 6 Kentucky Derby. In 2004, the Count Fleet was the launching pad for Smarty Jones, who came within a length of becoming the sport's 12th Triple Crown winner.

In the Count Fleet, Achilles of Troy was stretching out around two turns nine days after he won a six-furlong maiden race and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. Pedersen simply wanted a little more time and another sprint race before stretching the colt back out in distance.

"Woody Stephens always had that rule," Pedersen said of the Hall of Fame trainer's penchant for sprinting a horse twice before stretching him out. "I strongly believe in it. He was just that much better than the field. He did run great because he's a good horse, he has matured, he's not bleeding, and he's a little more relaxed."

Pedersen mentioned that Achilles of Troy had bled when fourth to Trailing Twelve - who was the Count Fleet favorite - in a Dec. 1 maiden race. Achilles of Troy is now 2 for 2 on Lasix.

A son of Notebook, Achilles of Troy was purchased for $120,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October sale as a yearling. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 for his Count Fleet tour de force, in which he stalked dueling longshots before catapulting to the lead midway around the far turn. It should be noted that Aqueduct's inner track was faster Saturday than it had been all meet. The nine-race card also yielded the two fastest six-furlong times of the meet, 1:09.14 and 1:09.46.

Paragallo said that Achilles of Troy reminds him of Unbridled's Song, Paragallo's immensely talented colt who won the 1995 Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his third lifetime start. At 3, Unbridled's Song won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial before finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby while wearing two bar shoes.

"He does things the way Unbridled's Song did things," Paragallo said. "You can't fight him. When he got beat where he finished fourth, it reminded me of the Fountain of Youth when Mike [Smith] tried to rate Unbridled's Song. I told Alan [Garcia], let him go out of there, don't fight him, and at the three-eighths pole chirp to him and he'll explode. That's what he did."

Paragallo has teased horseplayers before with 3-year-olds. In 2004, Song of the Sword won three starts in five weeks before hitting the board in two Derby preps. He finished 11th in the Derby and ninth in the Preakness. In 2003, New York Hero won the Lane's End Stakes, but did not run in the Derby and was sixth the Preakness. In 2001, Griffinite won the Lafayette, skipped the Derby, and was fifth in the Preakness.

Achilles of Troy's next start is undecided, though the $65,000 Whirlaway at Aqueduct on Feb. 11 is the leading candidate. Paragallo basically ruled out the Holy Bull at Gulfstream on Feb. 4 because he would want to give his colt at least a month to acclimate to south Florida. Oaklawn Park hosts the $250,000 Southwest Stakes, but that two-turn mile race is ungraded.

New York's series of 3-year-old races includes the listed Whirlaway, the Grade 3 Gotham (March 18), and the Grade 1 Wood Memorial (April 8). The Gotham is now a two-turn, 1 1/16-mile race on the inner track, conditions that would suit Achilles of Troy just fine.

"The only thing that concerns me about New York is the weather," Paragallo said Monday from Aqueduct, where the temperature reached 50 degrees. "Right now, it's better than Florida. Also the competition, I've got to start facing better competition."