03/14/2002 12:00AM

Ethan Man uses Swale as springboard

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The Florida Derby may not be the only Kentucky Derby prep on Saturday's 13-race program at Gulfstream Park. Not if Ethan Man runs to expectations in the $150,000 Swale Stakes, a seven-furlong dash that drew only five starters and tops the Florida Derby undercard, along with the $100,000 Equalize and One Dreamer handicaps for Florida-breds.

The roster of previous Swale winners to compete in the Kentucky Derby includes Chief's Crown (1985), Seeking The Gold (1988), Easy Goer (1989) and Favorite Trick (1998). And trainer Pat Byrne, who guided Favorite Trick to his Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old campaign before turning him over to Bill Mott at 3, is hoping to take a similar path this spring with the lightly raced but extremely talented Ethan Man.

Ethan Man is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, a racing partnership that also owns Kentucky Derby hopeful My Man Ryan. A son of Glitterman, Ethan Man has won two of his three career starts, including an easy six-length allowance victory here on Feb. 2 that earned him a 100 Beyer Speed Figure. In his career debut, Ethan Man defeated a field that included Louisiana Derby runner-up Easyfromthegitgo.

"I considered running him back around two turns, but the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea of coming back at seven furlongs," said Byrne. "I also wanted to give him a little extra time off after the huge race he ran first time back, so I'm really happy where I'm at with him now."

Ethan Man has trained spectacularly leading up to the Swale, including running an easy half-mile in 46.80 seconds on Monday, with a final quarter in 23 seconds.

"I'm keeping all my options open with him depending upon how he runs in the Swale," Byrne said. "He's a very relaxed horse, and I feel he can go two turns without any problem, although he should make a top miler. He's definitely the best young horse I've had since Favorite Trick, and he also reminds me a lot of Richter Scale. Not quite as precocious but easily as talented."

Pat Day will be aboard Ethan Man in the Swale.

Lining up against Ethan Man, who drew post position 5, from the rail out will be: Governor Hickel, Axis, Vinemeister, and Listen Here.

Listen Here won his first three starts at 2, including the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes, before closing out the season finishing a tiring sixth in the Remsen. He has been in training with Mott at Payson Park this winter, and will race on Lasix for the first time while making his 3-year-old debut in the Swale.

Governor Hickel has not started since outgaming Najran and Thunder Boot to win a competitive preliminary allowance race going seven furlongs on Jan. 25. It was the second win in the last three starts for Governor Hickel, who will have the services of jockey Gary Stevens for the first time on Saturday.

Axis, a tiring fifth in the Hutcheson Stakes, and Vinemeister, idle since winning The Meadowlands' Storm Cat Stakes on Oct. 6, round out the compact lineup for the Swale.

The one-mile Equalize Stakes came up strong, with Band Is Passing and Unite's Big Red topping a seven-horse field that also includes the Grade 1 stakes-placed and recent allowance winner Stokosky and defending champion Honorable Pic.

Band Is Passing comes off a second-place finish behind Cetewayo in the 11-furlong Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap. He won the Grade 2 Appleton at a mile here in 2000.

Unite's Big Red forced the pace before finishing a tiring fifth in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup. He is seeking his first victory since winning the Mac Diarmida Handicap here two years ago.

The One Dreamer, the filly and mare counterpart to the Equalize, drew a field of nine, led by Bay Street Gal and Clearly a Queen.