10/07/2004 12:00AM

Gin and Sin dangerous lone speed

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CHICAGO - The rising middle-distance turf horse Herculated probably is the best horse in the Robert F. Carey Handicap, Saturday's feature at Hawthorne Race Course. But sheer talent does not always win a horse race, and the shape of the Carey should play to the strengths of the fast turf miler Gin and Sin.

Nine runners were entered Thursday in the Carey, a Grade 3, $150,000 one-mile grass race, but only Gin and Sin is a true speed horse. At the top of Hawthorne's homestretch, Herculated should have Gin and Sin in his sights, but if Gin and Sin has dawdled on an easy lead, can Herculated catch him?

Herculated and Gin and Sin might form the Carey's core, but there are others with decent credentials. Rapidly improving Cloudy's Knight handled Gin and Sin in an overnight stakes last month at Arlington. G P Fleet won the Tri-State Handicap at Ellis Park in his last start. At Remington Park, Major Rhythm, third in the 2003 Carey, easily won the $125,000 DeBartolo Handicap, while Missme triumphed two weeks ago in the Kentucky Cup Mile, and False Promises won the Hawthorne Derby here about a year ago.

Herculated might reside in a slightly tonier zip code. Twice in a 20-month career bad feet have thrown Herculated off track, but Herculated, a 4-year-old, has won 6 of 10 starts, and when healthy has always fired. Back from an extended layoff last winter at Fair Grounds, he won three straight allowance races and finished second, beaten less than a length, in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz. When Herculated turned in a non-effort in the Dixie Handicap on Preakness Day, it was because his feet, subject to bruising, had failed him.

Mike Stidham, who trains Herculated for the Oak Crest Farm, did little with Herculated for the first part of the summer, waiting for him to recover, and now he takes pains to keep Herculated's feet pain-free.

"Knowing that's what his problem has been, we concentrate on it," Stidham said.

Stidham has not let Herculated breeze on dirt since the spring, and the gelding even skipped a work, rather than go on an off track, before he won the Aug. 7 Sea o'Erin at Arlington in his comeback race.

Herculated has been at Keeneland since leaving Arlington, and was considered for Saturday's Grade 1 Shadwell Mile there. For now, his connections are taking a path of lesser resistance, but an especially flashy performance Saturday could at least get Herculated considered for the Breeders' Cup Mile.

"That's in the back of our minds," Stidham said, "but way in the back."

More immediately, Herculated must catch Gin and Sin, who turns back in distance after losing in the 1 1/16-mile John Henry in his last start.

"It sure looks like a mile's his game," said trainer Darrin Miller. "In the John Henry, he was pressed pretty good" on the lead.

This time there might be no horse to apply pace pressure. And that will put the pressure on Herculated or any other horse trying to run down Gin and Sin.