03/09/2005 12:00AM

Gygistar begins his year in soft spot

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Mark Hennig could have started Gygistar's 2005 campaign in Saturday's Grade 2 Richter Scale Handicap. Instead he opted for a softer spot and a likely victory by entering the Grade 1 winner in Friday's $46,000 headliner - under money allowance and optional claiming conditions out of the one-mile chute.

The Richter Scale is expected to attract a strong field, including Cigar Mile winner Lion Tamer, Grade 1 winner Silver Wagon, and Clock Stopper, who outfinished Gygistar for second in last summer's Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga.

"I just don't want to start him back in that tough a spot," said Hennig.

Gygistar, now 6, had only one victory while keeping a steady diet of stakes company last season. The win came in Belmont's Grade 3 Westchester Handicap in early May, also at a one-turn mile.

A son of Prospector's Music, was stakes-placed several times in 2004, his best efforts being third-place finishes in the Forego, the Grade 2 Meadowlands Breeders' Cup, and the Grade 3 Sport Page Handicap. He won a Grade 1 in Saratoga's King's Bishop Handicap as a 3-year-old.

Despite being the class of the field, Gygistar will carry only 116 pounds under the allowance conditions of Friday's race, and have John Velazquez aboard.

Among rivals conceding weight to Gygistar are Wishingitwas, who also drops to an easier spot after finishing far behind Saint Liam, Roses in May, and Eddington in his local debut in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. Wishingitwas concluded his 2004 campaign by winning the Metroplex Mile at Lone Star Park at 38-1 in the opening race on the Breeders' Cup Day card.

will spot Gygistar four pounds as a result of his victory last summer in the Iowa Sprint Handicap. A hard-knocking gelding, Coach Jimi Lee turned in some big efforts in the fall but has tailed off lately, finishing far back in both the Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap at Calder and the Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 29.

drew the rail and should have a say in the early pace if he's able to break well. In his most recent race, a slow start led to a third-place finish against lesser optional claiming and allowance competition on Feb. 23. Judiths Wild Rush crushed $50,000 claiming company and was also second in the Lure Stakes earlier this meet.

The rest of the field is Whos Crying Now, M B Sea, Keep Cool, Uncivil, and Secret Reason.