10/18/2002 12:00AM

BC Countdown - Sprint: Gygistar withdraws, Thunderello in


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - As expected, trainer Mark Hennig has withdrawn Gygistar from the Breeders' Cup Sprint, paving the way for Thunderello to draw into the race off the also-eligible list.

Gygistar suffered a deep gash in his left front hoof when he grabbed himself in his stall at Belmont Oct. 11. Hennig was hoping to find a way to protect the injury enough to train and run Gygistar in the Breeders' Cup but abandoned that plan on Friday.

"He's out," Hennig said after training hours on Friday. "I didn't get him to the track today. He hasn't been to the track in a week, and I'm not going to hang my hat on just walking him in the shed row. We wanted to do it if he came around quickly off his injury, but I don't want to take him out there if he's less than his best. I think at his best he'd have been a serious horse to reckon with in the Sprint."

Gygistar would have been among the favorites had he started in the Sprint. A 3-year-old son of Prospector's Music owned and bred by Edward P. Evans, Gygistar has won six of his seven career starts, including all five this year. Included among those victories was a 4 1/2-length tally in the Grade 2 Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup and a three-length win over Boston Common in the Grade 1 King's Bishop.

"He'll definitely run next year," Hennig said, adding that if Gygistar heals quickly enough he could run in the Grade 1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial on Nov. 16 at Laurel.

By drawing into the Sprint, Thunderello becomes the first Breeders' Cup starter for trainer Scott Lake.

"It's bad luck for Mark and good luck for me," Lake said, referring to Gygistar's injury.

Thunderello, like Gygistar, has had a good deal of success from only a limited number of starts. He has won three of five starts, including his stakes debut, Philadelphia Park's Gallant Bob Handicap, on Oct. 5.

"I know we may be reaching for the moon running him in the Breeders' Cup," said Lake. "But he's as fast as any horse I've ever trained. The key is getting him to relax."

Lake, who also has My Cousin Matt on the also-eligible list for the Sprint, said he will ship Thunderello to Chicago on Monday and probably blow him out three furlongs over the track on Thursday morning.