02/28/2004 12:00AM

Eddington takes next step

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Eddington earned a shot at stakes company for his next start by easily dispatching five rivals in an entry-level allowance race Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

Confirming his dominant maiden win of Feb. 7, Eddington comfortably stalked the pace-setting Tiger Heart through six furlongs in 1:11.84, took command turning for home, and drew clear under Jerry Bailey to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Eddington, a son of 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.03 - a little slower than his maiden win - and returned $2.60.

The only time Bailey used the whip on Eddington was to get him to switch leads approaching the sixteenth pole. Other than that, Bailey rated Eddington's performance highly.

"Last time, he went pretty strong into the first turn and was aggressive," Bailey said. "Today he came off the bridle, which is a good sign, a sign that he'll probably relax enough as he keeps going."

Though there are only nine weeks remaining until the Kentucky Derby, Bailey believes there is still time for Eddington to become a contender.

"He's behind everybody else, but at this time of year it depends on who progresses the fastest," Bailey said. "He's going to obviously have to take a big step up next time."

Trainer Mark Hennig was obviously pleased with the effort and said he would evaluate all his options before determining in which stakes Eddington would run. The Florida Derby on March 13, however, is an unlikely option.

"Anytime you're dealing with this caliber of horse, you aren't anxious to run them back in two weeks in their first graded-stakes appearance," said Hennig, who trains Eddington for the Willmott Stables. "You could walk away not knowing if you're not good enough or if you tried to overrun your horse. We've got to evaluate our horse first and go from there."

Read the Footnotes, Birdstone top work tab

It was a busy morning at both Gulfstream Park and Palm Meadows, where a total of 241 horses were credited with timed workouts.

At Palm Meadows, Fountain of Youth winner Read the Footnotes worked an easy half-mile in 50.20 seconds. He is being pointed to the $1 million Florida Derby. His stablemate, Swingforthefences, an allowance winner on the Feb. 14 undercard, worked four furlongs in 48.40 seconds. Trainer Rick Violette has selected the Tampa Bay Derby on March 14 for his next start.

"Read the Footnotes worked late, around 10 o'clock, and the track was a little bit slower," Violette said. "They both did what we wanted; a little half-mile, gallop out five-eighths to blow off some steam. Neither one needed to get a whole lot of fitness out of it. We'll come back next week with a pretty serious workout."

Also at Palm Meadows, Birdstone, the Grade 1 Champagne winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01. He is likely to run next in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 20. His stablemate, Eurosilver, last fall's Lane's End Futurity winner, went five furlongs in 1:01.80. He remains on target for the Swale Stakes on March 13.

At Gulfstream, Frisky Spider, who suffered his first defeat in the Fountain of Youth, worked four furlongs in 48.40 seconds, a move that has trainer Bob Durso considering him for the Florida Derby.

Frisky Spider worked in blinkers, equipment he will wear wherever he runs next.

"We had thought about putting them on before he ever ran," Durso said. "He kept winning, so we couldn't put them on. I think they will help him. I'll work him next week out of the gate with them. I just want to make sure when he does work the next time he responds like he did today."

Durso said he would consider the Florida Derby and the Tampa Bay Derby for Frisky Spider's next start. Durso believes there may have been a plausible excuse for why Frisky Spider, who had won his first three starts, ran a bad seventh in the Fountain of Youth after setting the early pace.

Durso said Frisky Spider had coughed the Tuesday before the Fountain of Youth, but a blood test didn't reveal anything. Following the race, a second blood test showed that Frisky Spider's white count was down.

Harmony Lodge, Randaroo to bypass Bertie

There is good news for trainers who are looking to run their fillies and mares in next Sunday's Hurricane Bertie Stakes. Neither Harmony Lodge, the winner of the First Lady Handicap, nor Randaroo, the winner of the Shirley Jones Handicap, are expected to run in the $100,000 ungraded stakes.

Harmony Lodge, trained by Todd Pletcher, will face males in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 27, while Randaroo, who ran a career-best effort winning the Shirley Jones, will be pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct on March 27. Both fillies were assigned high weight of 121 pounds for the Hurricane Bertie.

Their absence could open up the race to such horses as Halory Leigh, who finished third in the Shirley Jones, and Mooji Moo, who won the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

On Saturday, Halory Leigh worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Gulfstream. Halory Leigh, who won a minor stakes at Turfway Park last November, was beaten eight lengths in the Shirley Jones. While she was no match for Randaroo, she did appear to be gaining on Harmony Lodge in the stretch.

"I think she can step forward and run even better," trainer Dale Romans said. "She's going to be competitive."

Tim Hills said he has been shopping for a spot for Mooji Moo, but he didn't want to run her against Harmony Lodge or Randaroo. With those two fillies not likely to run, Hills said Mooji Moo would likely start in the Hurricane Bertie, provided she works well Monday at Palm Meadows.

"We've got it penciled in at this point," Hills said.

House Party, who finished second to Harmony Lodge in the First Lady, will also run. She worked three furlongs in 36.80 seconds on Saturday. House Party would be the starting highweight at 117 pounds.

Puzzlement taken to clinic; out indefinitely

Puzzlement, the multiple graded-stakes-winning horse who began this meet with a victory in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Handicap, has developed an infection in a tendon and was taken to an equine clinic in Palm Beach on Friday for evaluation.

"His leg was filled," said Puzzlement's trainer, Allen Jerkens. "He didn't respond right away to antibiotics."

Asked if the situation was career-threatening, Jerkens said, "It can be. It's touchy."

Puzzlement, who won last year's Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup, most recently finished fourth in the Donn Handicap. He has won six of 22 starts for owner Joseph Shields and has banked $717,590.

Meanwhile, the Jerkens-trained Bowman's Band worked a half-mile on Saturday and may be pointed to the Skip Away Handicap on March 13. Clockers did not credit Bowman's Band with a timed work.

Grade 1 winner Volga retired

McLaughlin confirmed that Volga, impressive winner of the La Prevoyante Handicap in her last start, has been retired. McLaughlin said Volga remains with him at Palm Meadows, and he wasn't sure when or to whom she would be bred.

Volga, a 6-year-old mare by Caerleon owned by Joseph Allen, won last year's Grade 1 E.P. Taylor at Woodbine. She retires with a record of 7 wins, 5 seconds, and 2 thirds from 19 starts. Volga earned $1,141,759.

* Madcap Escapade, who set a stakes record winning the Old Hat this month, breezed four furlongs in 48.40 seconds Saturday morning. She is being pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Stonerside Forward Gal Stakes here on March 13.

* On Thursday, Miss Kipper Kitty won her fifth consecutive race, and fourth at this meet. Not to be outdone, Tis Me on Saturday won her fifth consecutive race, and fourth at this meet. Tis Me was claimed for the fifth straight time, with trainer Mark Casse winning a two-way shake.