03/18/2004 12:00AM

Eddington will need to find extra gear


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - By winning his last two races with style, Eddington has established himself as one of the more intriguing prospects for this year's Kentucky Derby. But the obstacles he faces in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 at Aqueduct make him a risky betting proposition.

Eddington figures to be first or second choice in the Gotham, a one-turn mile race that figures to be run over a heavy, wet track. A field of eight was entered for the Gotham, which will be televised live on ESPN2 (3:30 p.m. Eastern) along with the Lane's End Stakes from Turfway Park.

Though spring officially arrives Saturday, winter was expected to go out with a fury on Friday, dumping as much as seven inches of snow on the New York area. A smaller storm inundated the area Wednesday, and on Thursday, Aqueduct's main track was a muddy mess.

Trainer Mark Hennig chose to cut Eddington back from two turns to a one-turn mile because he wants to see how Eddington will react when horses run away from him early in a race. In a pair of two-turn wins at Gulfstream, Eddington was never farther than one length off the pace. Aqueduct's main track can favor speed when it's wet, however, and there's a chance Eddington could run out of ground trying to run down the speed.

"It could be that way. We've seen that a lot over there," Hennig said Thursday morning in his Belmont Park office. "As I've said, I'm not going to panic if he doesn't run the speed down, as long as he's running."

Eddington has never run over a wet track, but he has galloped on one. "He gets through just about anything," Hennig said.

There should be sufficient speed for Eddington to run at in the Gotham. Deputy Storm set blazing fractions when he finished second in the Grade 2 Hutcheson last month at Gulfstream. He was also a front-running winner of the Tyro Stakes at Monmouth last summer.

Trained by Todd Pletcher, Deputy Storm has handled the slop before, so that's not an issue. Deputy Storm is so fast early, though, that he may not have enough stamina to last the mile. Pletcher took the blinkers off Deputy Storm for his last race, but he still ran the opening half-mile in 43.73 seconds. Deputy Storm breaks from the rail under Jorge Chavez.

"We obviously need him to rate a little more kindly if he's able to [get a mile]," Pletcher said.

Deputy Storm is one of two Gotham starters who are coming out of the Hutcheson. The other is Saratoga County, who could offer the best betting value in this race. Saratoga County had a nightmarish trip when he finished third in the Hutcheson.

Saratoga County must prove he can handle a wet track and the one-mile distance. His sire, Valid Expectations, won the Derby Trial at a mile. Saratoga County's grandsire, Valid Appeal, is known as a potent wet-track sire.

Redskin Warrior, the Best Turn Stakes winner, figures to vie for favoritism with Eddington. Redskin Warrior tries to stretch out from six furlongs to a mile, but jockey Richard Migliore says he doesn't think that will be a problem. How Redskin Warrior will handle a wet track is unknown.

Trainer Patrick Biancone won the 2002 Gotham with Mayakovsky, who was coming off a seven-month layoff. Saturday, Biancone ships in Pomeroy, who has not won since being disqualified from first in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile seven months ago.

Biancone says he doesn't believe he has Pomeroy as cranked for this year's Gotham as he had Mayakovsky for the one in 2002.

"He's well enough to run, he's not geared up," Biancone said. "As long as I run a good first race of the year, I'll be happy."

Quick Action, Rockhewn, and War's Prospect round out the field.

* With no racing Friday, there will be a two-day pick six carryover of $120,063.