06/15/2005 11:00PM

Don't Get Mad chalk in first off quarantine

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Don't Get Mad, winner of the Derby Trial (above) and fourth in the Kentucky Derby, holds a class edge over his six opponents in Saturday's Grade 3 Northern Dancer Stakes.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - From mid-May through early June, Churchill Downs lost potential starters as a result of a quarantine caused by multiple discoveries of the equine herpes virus. Saturday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, the track actually stands to pick up a runner as a result of quarantine.

, the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, is entered against Real Dandy, First Word, and four other opponents in the 1 1/16-mile Northern Dancer. Don't Get Mad was forced to miss a start in the May 28 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park because he was stabled in one of three quarantined barns at Churchill Downs.

Having raced competitively against Giacomo and Afleet Alex in the Kentucky Derby, he stands out on class - provided he has maintained a peak level of fitness.

Although Don't Get Mad never got sick, he missed three consecutive days of training as a result of being in a quarantined barn and then had to train separate from the general horse population under what trainer Ron Ellis said were unfavorable and changing training hours.

"These animals are creatures of habit," said Ellis. "These things can throw them off."

Don't Get Mad has breezed three times since the Derby, while being kept under the care of Ellis's brother-in-law, Paul McGee, who trained the horse when he was based in Kentucky as a 2-year-old in 2005. Ellis said the colt had to miss one work because of an off track.

Ellis said he hopes the high level of fitness Don't Get Mad gained in running in the 1 1/4-mile Derby a week after winning the Derby Trial leaves him with enough foundation to win the Northern Dancer. Gary Stevens rides.

The 5-2 second choice on the morning line behind 6-5 favorite Don't Get Mad is the Bobby Frankel-trained . A 3-year-old son of Chester House owned by Juddmonte Farm, he comes off a five-length triumph in an entry-level allowance at Belmont on May 22. Jerry Bailey has the mount.

, exiting a string of four graded stakes, will also be among the favorites. He ran third in the Lone Star Derby last out, on May 14.

Bucharest, Crimson Stag, Unbridled Energy, and Secret Woods complete the field.