03/09/2002 12:00AM

Equality adds quality to Tampa Derby


OLDSMAR, Fla. - From all early indications, Sunday's Tampa Bay Derby could feature the strongest field of 3-year-olds the race has attracted in a long time.

The presence of Booklet and Harlan's Holiday in Saturday's Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park will prompt the connections of several solid 3-year-olds to come in from Miami for the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby.

Included in that group is Equality, a maturing son of Mt. Livermore who dazzled a field of allowance rivals at Gulfstream in his second start at 3. He stalked a hot early pace, then accelerated leaving the turn to romp by more than 16 lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 97.

Equality showed signs of talent last fall at Delaware Park, finishing third to Include's half-brother, Invent, in a maiden race at one mile. Equality then changed tactics to rally from off the pace to win his maiden in his final start as a 2-year-old, scoring by almost three lengths in his first start with Lasix.

That race was run at Delaware over a track labeled "good" that trainer Graham Motion described as a bit heavy. Motion indicated that a race over that kind of surface did his horse a world of good.

Tampa's surface, while safe and uniform, has always been a bit sandy and on the tiring side itself.

Political Attack is another promising youngster scheduled to run in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby. Trainer John Hennig, who raced horses here in the mid 1970's and who knows the Tampa surface well, last week said he has no interest in breaking his colt's spirit by chasing Booklet and Harlan's Holiday in the Florida Derby.

"I don't consider him Kentucky Derby material at the moment," Hennig said. "I'm just looking for him to develop and let him be what he can be."

Of course the local favorite will be Bunk N Ted - if he runs. Owner Danny Hutt has told officials that his undefeated colt will be entered, but there is talk Bunk N Ted may instead race in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on March 23. Hutt could not be reached for comment to clarify the status of his horse.