04/09/2003 12:00AM

Drawing outside may be good omen


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Eugene's Third Son, Man Among Men, and Aristocat, three of the top contenders in the Grade 2, $500,000 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on Saturday, all drew outside posts for the 1 1/8-mile race, which will go with a field of 12.

Region of Merit, winner of the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, will break from post 7. He and Eugene's Third Son may vie for favoritism.

Eugene's Third Son, runner-up last out in the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End, drew the outside post.

"I think it's going to be fine, simply because there's only one other real speed horse in the race," said Patrick Byrne, who trains the quick Eugene's Third Son for Serengeti Stable. "I think there's a bunch of closers in the race, and from the 12-hole, we'll be out there quick, and I like him on the outside.

"I would rather be in the 12-hole than the 1-hole."

Byrne looks for Eugene's Third Son, to be ridden by Shane Sellers, to be sitting close behind probable pacesetter Cat Genius, who drew post 6 and will be ridden by Calvin Borel.

"If you're handicapping the race, you've got Cat Genius, then where's the other speed?" said Byrne. "My colt is fast. My colt went [1:09.40] at Gulfstream sprinting. He can run, but I've elected to settle him. I think we'll see a quick break and be in a stalking position."

The last three runnings of the Arkansas Derby have been won from outside posts. Private Emblem won from the 11-hole in a field of 11 last year, while Balto Star won from post 10 in an 11-horse field in 2001 and Graeme Hall won from post 10 in a 14-horse field in 2000.

"Maybe the outside is golden in this race," said Byrne.

The Arkansas Derby will be the third leg of the Big 3 Pick 3, which includes the Wood Memorial and Blue Grass. The Wood will be broadcast on ESPN from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern, while the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby will be televised on NBC from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Teacher vs. student in derby

George Weaver, a former assistant to Todd Pletcher who went out on his own Nov. 1, is looking for his first stakes win in the Arkansas Derby with the up-and-coming Christine's Outlaw.

One of the colts he will have to beat is the Pletcher-trained Aristocat, who will add blinkers after his second-place finish to Region of Merit in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Weaver, 32, worked as an assistant to trainer Wayne Lukas before joining Pletcher, whom he got to know when both were under the employ of Lukas.

"That was my goal from the very beginning, to train one day," said Weaver. "But I didn't come from a racing family, so I apprenticed under Wayne Lukas."

Christine's Outlaw is one of 25 horses Weaver has in training, and he calls the colt his most accomplished 3-year-old. A winner of two of three career starts, Christine's Outlaw made a splash when he won his maiden by 11 1/4 lengths at Gulfstream on Jan. 11.

In his next start he finished sixth to Aristocat after a slow start, then returned to win a 1 1/8-mile entry-level allowance impressively on the Florida Derby undercard March 15.

"He's a very nice colt, and we get to see what he's made of Saturday," said Weaver, who trains the colt for R C Hill Stable. "He's indicated in his training that perhaps bigger or better days are ahead of him. If he were to run real big in the Arkansas Derby, we would consider the Kentucky Derby."

Before the draw, Weaver was hoping for post 3, 4, or 5 for Christine's Outlaw, and he got his wish when the colt drew post 4. He should be close to the pace Saturday.

"He's got tactical speed. You can do what you want with him," said Weaver. "We're not looking to go to the front with him, but he's got a high cruising speed, and we're not looking to take back."

Christine's Outlaw is a half-brother to stakes winners Crimson Classic, who earned $559,538, and Marastani, a Grade 3 winner of $476,680.