08/25/2002 11:00PM

This Guns for Hire stays home

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It took This Guns for Hire seven starts to get his first victory, but trainer John Terranova still thought enough of him to nominate and seriously consider running him in Monday's Pennsylvania Derby.

But Terranova opted to take a more conservative route with 3-year-old This Guns for Hire, who will find the competition much easier taking on eight rivals going 1 1/8 miles under first-level allowance conditions in Wednesday's $48,000 feature at Saratoga.

This Guns for Hire finished third twice and second on four consecutive occasions before finally winning his maiden in a convincing 2 3/4-length victory when stretching to nine furlongs for the first time here on Aug. 1.

"The Pennsylvania Derby looks like it's coming up tough, and I decided that might just be too much of a jump at this point," said Terranova. "He ran big numbers and knocked on the door for a while but always found one way or another to get beat. Now that he's finally won, I just hope he'll keep moving forward."

Terranova's last-minute decision to skip the Pennsylvania Derby and run here Wednesday cost him This Guns for Hire's regular jockey, Richard Migliore, who will ride Fisher Pond for trainer Todd Pletcher instead. Terranova was able to get John Velazquez to replace Migliore aboard This Guns for Hire.

"I didn't take Rich off the horse," Terranova explained. "Originally, I told him I thought we were going to the Pennsylvania Derby - so he wound up taking another call in this race. We just kind of got our signals crossed."

Fisher Pond figures to be one of This Guns for Hire's chief rivals on Wednesday, along with Crimson Hero.

Fisher Pond has shown marked improvement since coming off the turf, winning his maiden by 15 lengths in his main track debut before missing a neck to Dubai Tiger after a race-long duel in allowance company for the first time on June 30.

Crimson Hero, second behind Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen in the Grade 2 Lexington, makes his second start since finishing a troubled seventh in the Preakness. He was a non-threatening third over a sloppy track under allowance conditions here Aug. 2.

"I think the combination of a wet track and the layoff worked again him in his last start," said trainer Nick Zito. "I still believe he's one of our best horses. Right now I'm just hoping to get a win under his belt and see what happens from there."