02/11/2005 1:00AM

Don't Get Mad a second shooter in Ellis barn

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PHOENIX - Ron Ellis has to be a just little giddy these days.

Yes, he has Declan's Moon in his barn - a colt that already has won an Eclipse Award and is the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. But there's another exciting horse in the Ellis barn - Don't Get Mad, who will to make his 3-year-old debut in Sunday's Grade 2 San Vicente. And like Declan's Moon, Don't Get Mad looks capable of making some noise.

That gives Ellis two legitimate shots at this spring's classics, and any classics-minded trainer will tell you it is great to have two horses like that in your barn. It's like Indian Charlie and Real Quiet. Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring. Point Given and Congaree. Timber Country and Thunder Gulch. Prince of Thieves and Grindstone. Cat Thief and Charismatic. Empire Maker and Peace Rules. And back in the old days, Citation and Coaltown, Gen. Duke and Iron Leige.

Don't Get Mad raced only twice as a 2-year-old, but both starts were smashing come-from-behind sprint wins. And sprinting doesn't appear to be the game he wants most to play.

"I think seven-eighths will be a little short for him," said Ellis of Don't Get Mad, who is a son of the router Stephen Got Even. "His thing is, he's bred to go a mile and a quarter. I'm looking for him to run into form."

Owned by B. Wayne Hughes, Don't Get Mad beat maidens by six lengths at six furlongs on Nov. 2, then won an allowance race at seven furlongs on Nov. 26. His Beyer Speed Figures were 84 and 90. At the time, he was trained by Ellis's brother-in-law Paul McGee.

Stephen Got Even is a son of A. P. Indy who was the 1992 Horse of the Year, winning the Santa Anita Derby, Peter Pan Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and Breeders' Cup Classic. Stephen Got Even was a Grade 2 stakes winner at 3, ran in all three Triple Crown races, was third in the Grade 1 Woodward, and won the Grade 1 Donn in his 4-year-old debut. Then he suffered a career-ending injury.

Don't Get Mad's lone sibling, Bornwithit, has won four times and made headlines when he won his maiden by better than 24 lengths. Don't Get Mad's dam, Class on Class, won five races and more than $189,000, and was five times stakes-placed. She is related to Class Kris (10 wins, $582,000 in earnings, a multiple Grade 2 and 3 stakes winner), Classic Approval (three times stakes-placed), and Patriot Act (stakes-placed). In other words, there's class and stamina on both sides.

Some may dismiss Don't Get Mad's Triple Crown chances since he has had only two starts, has only sprinted, and has yet to make his 3-year-old debut. But this pattern has worked well before. Silver Charm ran only three times as a juvenile, all three starts in sprints. After a narrow win in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, he came up with some ailments and got the winter off. He didn't resurface until early February, you might note, in the San Vicente.

He won that day and went on to run second in the Grade 2 San Felipe and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby - losing both races to Free House - but got revenge with wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness before a game loss to Touch Gold in the Belmont. That was a springboard to a career in which Silver Charm won just under $7 million. Some other recent Derby winners had light juvenile campaigns - Grindstone (two races), Fusaichi Pegasus (one), Monarchos (two), and War Emblem (three).

This isn't to say Don't Get Mad will have the same kind of success as them. But the pieces are in place. The pedigree is there. The talent is there, and the horsemanship is there. Ellis got a feel for the Kentucky Derby, sending out Atswhatimtalknbout to a fast-closing fourth in the 2003 Derby behind Funny Cide.

It isn't going to be easy for Don't Get Mad in the San Vicente. though the likely race favorite, roman Ruler, will be scratched, Consolidator, the smashing winner of the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, also has been working well and has targeted the San Vicente for his 3-year-old debut. Kirkendahl, disappointing as the favorite in the Grade 2 San Rafael at a mile, cuts back to a sprint and might return to his previous excellent form.

The familiar names are out there, but, remember, at this time of year in previous seasons not many people were oohing-and-aahing about the Derby chances of such horses as Real Quiet, Funny Cide, Charismatic, or War Emblem. As we dive into the first weekend of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 1, keep your options open.