04/21/2002 12:00AM

Buddha back on track

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Buddha, who established himself as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby by winning the April 13 Wood Memorial, showed no signs of being knocked out from that hard race when he worked six furlongs in 1:14.47 Sunday morning over Belmont Park's training track.

Working over a moisture-laden track that was rated "good" after the renovation break, and with traffic cones, or dogs, protecting the path closest to the rail, Buddha was clocked in fractions of 25.02 seconds, 49.27 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27.54. His final quarter of 25.20 seconds was a little slower than trainer James Bond would have liked, but all things considered he was pleased with the move. Exercise rider Fiona Goodwin was aboard for the move, the second fastest of three six-furlong moves.

"I would have liked to see him come home a little quicker, but with the [wet] racetrack and he's outside a little it was fine," said Bond, who clocked Buddha galloping out a mile in 1:41. "The main thing was I got the work in."

Originally, Bond had planned to work Buddha on Monday. But with more rain in the forecast for Sunday night and Monday morning, he moved the work up a day. Bond plans to work Buddha again at Belmont next Sunday before vanning him to Churchill Downs on April 29.

Buddha hardly took a breath as he walked off the track with his head held majestically in the air as if he knew he was something special. Bond said the fact Buddha came out of the Wood so well enabled him to work him six furlongs Sunday.

"Had he come out of it tired I probably would have backed down a little bit," Bond said. "He doesn't look tired to me. The work closest to the race is more important; this is more of what I call a maintenance work to keep the air into him. I wanted him to gallop out the mile, he galloped out the mile the right way. I thought it was a great work."

Goodwin, who has been on Buddha since he came to Bond late last year, has noticed a change in Buddha since the Wood.

"He's been a much more aggressive horse this week," Goodwin said. He's got a lot more confidence in himself too, I think that race really gave him some confidence. He thinks he owns the place now."