04/10/2002 12:00AM

Ex-trainer Reid finds true calling


PHILADELPHIA - Mark Reid's palms will be sweaty before the Wood Memorial. He will be agonizing. His mind will be racing through all that could go wrong in less than two minutes.

When the race is over, however, Reid will simply return to his New Jersey home. He won't have to rush back to the barn. He won't be getting up at 5 a.m. the next day to check on Medaglia d'Oro. Or any other horse.

"I tell everybody it's not the same," Reid said. "You don't have to worry about whether a horse ate up after his race. After his workout, does he have a little filling today? Did the hot walker walk him long enough?"

A decade ago, Reid was Scott Lake without quite as many victories. He was on the road constantly, driving from track to track to oversee a far-flung stable. Finally, it became too much and Reid got out. He got into the heating and air conditioning business. The hours were better. The thrills were not.

So he started to put a stable together again. Then, realizing it was, he says, "entirely too difficult to start from scratch," he came to his senses.

Reid found himself sitting at Garden State Park one day talking to Ben Perkins Sr. Perkins was a terrific trainer in his day. But he was an even better horse trader.

Reid told Perkins he was thinking about buying and selling instead of training. "It seems like the guys that are buying and selling are making all the money and the trainers aren't," Reid said.

Reid went on to tell Perkins that he had a couple of clients and was starting to build his stable back up. Perkins had some advice: "Open the door and let those horses loose."

Buy and sell or train, Reid wanted to know.

"Get rid of those horses tomorrow," Perkins told him.

"So I did," Reid said.

Now, he buys. And he sells. For a five percent commission.

The first year, he bought and sold 15 or so. Last year, it was around 25 or 30. This year, it's six or seven, but a better quality, and thus higher prices.

He bought one for trainer Bobby Frankel that did not win a race. Frankel did not give up on Reid. Good thing. The last three Reid bought for him are the terrific 3-year-old filly You, Santa Catalina Stakes winner Labamta Babe, and San Felipe Stakes winner Medaglia d'Oro. All are owned by Edmund Gann.

So how does he do it?

"I'm a genius," Reid joked.

Seriously, Reid thinks he brings something to the table that many of his competitors do not.

"I have a training background," Reid said. "I started seeking out horses I would like to buy if I were buying. I just put into play all the experience of 25 years of training."

Reid looks at past performances. He looks at the Beyers. He looks at tapes. He becomes interested.

"What I add to the equation is that I look at the horse physically," Reid said. "There's a lot of horses that will run fast early. Once you look at him, you say 'Uh, oh, he's not going to be around in August."'

But how does he keep picking these winners, everyone wants to know?

"It's real difficult," Reid tells everyone. "I have a three-step process. I get Mr. Gann to spend a lot of money on a top prospect. I give 'em to Frankel to train. And then the third part is tell everybody how smart I am."

Not much is going wrong for Reid these days. A University of Maryland graduate, he watched his alma mater play in the Orange Bowl for the first time in 45 years. And he watched the Terrapins win the national championship in basketball for the first time.

Now, a horse he picked out will be the one of the favorites in the Wood. And, if he wins that, Medaglia d'Oro will be one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby.

The excitement, Reid said, is similar to when he was training. The difference is that his alarm clock is no longer a necessity.