05/13/2002 12:00AM

Frankel has Medaglia d'Oro ready

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BALTIMORE - Only five of the last 20 winners of the Kentucky Derby have come back to win the Preakness, and it is questionable if we saw a Charismatic, a Real Quiet, a Silver Charm, a Sunday Silence, or an Alysheba at Churchill Downs on May 4.

You can't fault War Emblem's performance, but he made a gift of the pace, an oversight not likely to be repeated. With the addition of Booklet, who was the speed in Florida all winter, the Preakness field looks as lively as that in the Derby, if not more so.

And then there is Medaglia d'Oro, who has a high turn of speed himself, according to his trainer, Bobby Frankel, but never got a chance to use it.

"He's had faster fractions in some of his races than War Emblem," Frankel said the other day. "But he had his head turned in the gate on Derby Day when the man sprung the latch. He bobbled and lost his position. If you put his speed into the picture, the results could have been different."

Instead of challenging War Emblem in front, Medaglia d'Oro found himself behind horses, deep in the Derby's field of 18, after being bumped by Essence of Dubai.

Medaglia d'Oro, finishing strongly, was bumped again by Essence of Dubai near the three-sixteenths pole, but had the determination to get fourth money of $45,000.

"I hope he breaks in the Preakness," Frankel says. "He is an easy horse to ride. He doesn't pull with his head. We've got a new rider this weekend. Jerry Bailey and I have had a lot of luck together. I'm not going to give any orders. There are too many possible scenarios."

Whatever the story line, Frankel would prefer that Medaglia d'Oro not be too far off the pace at any point in the Preakness. He feels a horse takes the worst of it at Pimlico when left with a lot to do. Given a preference, he would opt for the inside over the outside.

Third choice in the Derby behind Harlan's Holiday and Saarland, Medaglia d'Oro could be favored in the Preakness off his strong finish in Louisville. He appears to have come out of the race in good order, an important factor with the classics so close together.

* Frankel also bid for the Kentucky Oaks with You but is passing Pimlico's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at nine furlongs in favor of Belmont Park's Acorn Mile. "A mile or a mile and a sixteenth seems to be a better fit for her than a mile and an eighth, at least at this time," he said. "There are plenty of opportunities for her, and she may want to go farther with maturity."