02/20/2003 12:00AM

Debonair Joe runs in Maddy after all

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ALBANY, Calif. - Debonair Joe, who went from a $12,500 claimer to Grade 1 winner in the space of two months last year, wasn't originally going to run in Saturday's $100,000 Ken Maddy Sprint at Golden Gate Fields. But he's here and is a force to be reckoned with when five older Cal-bred sprinters compete in the six-furlong Maddy.

Trainer Juan Pablo Silva's original plan was to run Debonair Joe, winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, in a one-mile turf allowance race at Santa Anita last Friday in preparation for next month's Crystal Water Handicap, also on the grass.

Rains in Southern California last week caused the race to be written for the main track. Silva entered Debonair Joe but scratched because of an off track.

The Maddy still wasn't clearly in the picture for Debonair Joe.

"I didn't know if I'd run the horse because El Dorado Shooter was running, and he's awfully tough to catch," said Silva, who used to handle his father Jose's string in northern California. "I was told Giovannetti was going and Echo Eddie. That meant there would be a lot of speed with those three trying to get on the lead.

"If those three go, the only one laying off the pace and making a big move would be me."

Except, of course, for Radar Contact, the fifth horse in the field, who also comes from off the pace.

El Dorado Shooter and Echo Eddie have won the past two runnings of the Maddy, and both have shown an ability to withstand a pace duel and finish strongly.

Echo Eddie has the advantage of drawing outside in the field of five, with El Dorado Shooter in post 2 and Giovannetti in post 3.

Debonair Joe drew the rail and should get a ground-saving trip until he makes his move.

A 4-year-old gelding, Debonair Joe has won 3 of 6 starts since being claimed on Sept. 20 at Fairplex.

"I scoped him after the claim, and he was fine, but the next day when I ponied him, he was coughing up a thick mucus," Silva said. "He had an infection in his lungs and was on antibiotics for six days after that."

Silva claims no miracles in turning around Debonair Joe, a stakes winner as a 2-year-old. He says Debonair Joe seems to get body sore so he takes it easy on him and lets him train now without shoes.

"I just take it easy with him and spend 45 minutes a day at the track with him," Silva said.

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