02/18/2003 1:00AM

Derby preps bring agony and ecstasy


LAS VEGAS - As far as Kentucky Derby preps go, last weekend was both exciting and disappointing. Trust N Luck dismissed some highly regarded 3-year-olds in the Fountain of Youth, most notably Offlee Wild and Whywhywhy. Offlee Wild, who looked like a colt with a big future after his Holy Bull Stakes victory, appeared to make a winning move approaching the far turn, but hung in the stretch and finished fourth. Could it be that he left his race in the blazing 57-and-change-second workout only days before the Fountain of Youth? Whywhywhy was never a factor, and he will be kept to races under one mile, where he probably will fare much better.

Blend of speed and stamina

The following day, Badge of Silver was even more impressive than Trust N Luck, dominating his field in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. After stalking Saintly Look, Badge of Silver exploded in the stretch, winning by 10 lengths. Badge of Silver is by the speed influence Silver Deputy (Deputy Minister), best known as the sire of champion Silverbulletday. The main disappointments in the Risen Star were the previously undefeated colts Indy Dancer (A.P. Indy) and Seattle Hoofer (Seattle Slew), who never mounted any kind of threat.

Silver Deputy has had many champions in Canada, including champion sprinter Deputy Inxs, 2- and 3-year-old filly champion Deputy Jane West, champion 3-year-old filly and sprinter Scotzanna, champion 2-year-old filly Poetically, champion 2-year-old filly Larkwhistle, and champion 3-year-old colt Archers Bay. All of these champions had distance limitations except Archers Bay, who won the prestigious Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales and ran second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Like Silverbulletday, who had the stout influences Tom Rolfe and Quadrangle up close in her pedigree, Badge of Silver is bred for speed on his sire's side but gets stamina from his damsire, Silver Hawk, a son of Roberto. Badge of Silver's second dam is by 1967 Jerome Handicap winner High Tribute, an Elmendorf Farm homebred by Prince John (by renowned stamina sire, Princequillo).

Easy Goer's grandson

The Fountain of Youth and Risen Star, both at 1 1/16 miles, commanded the most attention last weekend, but the Hutcheson Stakes unveiled a possible star in Lion Tamer.

Lion Tamer is from the first crop of the talented but under-appreciated Will's Way, the best colt sired by champion Easy Goer, who sired only four crops before his untimely death at age 8 in 1994. Easy Goer, and his arch-rival Sunday Silence unquestionably rank among racing's greatest horses. With his royal bloodlines (Alydar out of champion Relaxing, by Buckpasser), Easy Goer was expected to be a star at stud. At the time of his death, Easy Goer's first crop was only 2, and his best runners, Will's Way and My Flag, were only yearlings.

Along with Will's Way and My Flag, Easy Goer's nine stakes winners are multiple stakes winner Furlough, Composer, Relaxing Rhythm, Jetto, Makethemostofit, Sheepscot, and Promiscuous. He also sired seven stakes-placed runners, including Smooth Charmer, a half-sister to stakes winner and sire Mutakddim.

My Flag was the result of a mating between two of Ogden Phipps's greatest champions, Easy Goer and Personal Ensign. In addition to her stirring victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, My Flag captured the Coaching Club American Oaks, Ashland Stakes, Gazelle Handicap, and Bonnie Miss Stakes - and was stakes placed in the Frizette, Davona Dale, Alabama, and Matron Stakes. In a gallant effort, My Flag finished third in the Belmont Stakes behind Editor's Note and Skip Away, while defeating Louis Quatorze and Prince of Thieves.

Now 10, My Flag is the dam of last year's undefeated 2-year-old filly champion, Storm Flag Flying. She has an unraced 2-year-old colt by A.P. Indy named Leading the Parade.

Will's Way has all the tools to be an important stallion, and is the lone hope to carry on Easy Goer's legacy. With the emphasis placed on speed in this country, Will's Way brings much-needed stamina to the breed, much like the late Unbridled, A.P. Indy, and Thunder Gulch.

Unraced at 2, Will's Way came to hand in the summer of 1996, finishing second to Preakness Stakes winner Louis Quatorze in the Jim Dandy Stakes before turning the tables on Louis Quatorze in the Travers Stakes. Will's Way had a good season at 4, finishing in the money in all five of his starts. He won the Whitney Handicap over Formal Gold and Skip Away, and finished second in the Suburban Handicap and third in the Woodward Stakes and Massachusetts Handicap.

Lion Tamer is out of a mare by the brilliant (speed) influence Olympio, one of the best racehorses bred by the late Verne Winchell. Lion Tamer's female family is full of speed influences, but if he is anything like his sire, he should continue to be effective as the distances increase.