10/13/2005 12:00AM

Gun Salute's superiority simple as ABC

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CHICAGO - The transitive property says that if A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. You can use it on horseracing. If Gun Salute beat English Channel by 1 1/2 lengths in the Secretariat, and English Channel came within a neck of Shakespeare in the Joe Hirsch, then Gun Salute could have beaten Shakespeare in the Joe Hirsch.

Go one step farther. If Shakespeare is a leading contender for the Breeders' Cup Turf, then also should be a leading contender for the Breeders' Cup Turf. And finally, if Gun Salute could be a leading contender for the Breeders' Cup Turf, what is he going to do to four opponents Saturday in the Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby?

In all likelihood, beat them.

"We'd just like to get a piece of it, really," said Mike Stidham, who trains one of Gun Salute's rivals, Thunder Mission.

That is probably the sentiment shared by the connections of Bellator, , the others in the Hawthorne Derby, a 1 1/8-mile grass race that shares Saturday's card with the $150,000 Hawthorne Oaks. Gun Salute, due to ship in by van on Friday from trainer Bill Mott's satellite string at Churchill Downs, should be an odds-on favorite in the derby.

Mott also trains Shakespeare, and though he turned over the idea of shooting for the Breeders' Cup with Gun Salute, he decided weeks ago to point for the Hawthorne Derby, which he won last year with Cool Conductor, and if all goes well, a trip out West for the Hollywood Derby.

"We had a plan to go to Hawthorne and Hollywood, and why not stick to it?" Mott said.

Gun Salute might just be a Breeders' Cup-type horse - but why rush? He is only 3, and his best days might still lie in front of him. Which is saying a lot, since Gun Salute ran brilliantly when he won the Secretariat three weeks after having narrowly won the American Derby, also at Arlington Park.

The New York-based Mott does not often see Gun Salute train and has mainly left the colt's development in the hands of his Midwest assistants, who have issued glowing reports. "We discuss the training schedule, but they manage the day-to-day," Mott said. "They obviously care a lot about the horse, and they've done a wonderful job with him."

Saturday, the Kentucky team turns Gun Salute over to his regular rider, Cornelio Velasquez. And the instructions here should be fairly straightforward: Don't fall off, and you'll probably win.