02/04/2003 12:00AM

Gygistar set to make up for lost time


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Mark Hennig reached into his briefcase and pulled out a folder containing photos of a hoof missing part of the shelly wall. Underneath was a raw mess. The flesh was exposed.

This was Gygistar's right front foot on the eve of the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

"It was down to the bone nearly," Hennig said Tuesday morning at Gulfstream Park.

Gygistar won all five of his starts last year, including the Grade 1 King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga, in which he earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 113. He was thought to be the primary rival for Orientate in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

But then an accident in his stall ripped his foot apart, just days after Gygistar was pre-entered for the Sprint. Hennig held out faint hope that Gygistar might make the race, but he knew better. He decided to keep Gygistar in the barn and, like the annual cry from Cubs fans, wait 'til next year.

Next year has arrived. Orientate, the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner, has gone to stud, leaving Gygistar as one of the leading contenders to take over the sprint division. He is scheduled to make his first start of 2003 on Sunday, in the $100,000 Deputy Minister Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

"He's training superbly," Hennig said.

"It was frustrating, absolutely, to not run in the Breeders' Cup. I was extremely confident he'd give a good account of himself that day," Hennig added. "Hopefully, he'll get a chance to show this year that that didn't matter."

Gygistar, a 4-year-old bred and owned by Edward Evans, has won 6 of 7 starts, including two races at Gulfstream.

Hennig's staff had plenty of work to do with Gygistar to get him back to the races. The photos offer an all-too-vivid illustration of the extent of the injury. This was not a minor quarter crack. Gygistar ripped away the outside quarter of the hoof wall, much like ripping a fingernail from the tip to the quick.

"We had to wait and let nature take its course, and keep the area clean," Hennig said. "Once it was healthy enough to patch, we put a patch over it to give it some support. He also wore a spider bar shoe to give it support; the shoe covers the whole foot, with some openings. It looks like a spider web. He tacked-walked in November, then started training regularly in December."

Since arriving in Florida at the end of the year, Gygistar has turned in a series of fast works for his return, including a half-mile work on Jan. 12 that was the best of 36 at the distance that day.

McGee may double team Gygistar

Deer Lake and Dream Run, both trained by Paul McGee, are among the challengers expected to face Gygistar in the 6 1/2-furlong Deputy Minister.

Dream Run was third in a classified allowance race on Jan. 22. Deer Lake won an optional claiming race on Jan. 5, defeating Boston Brat, who in two subsequent starts here has set or equaled two track records.

"I'll probably end up running them both," McGee said. "Dream Run, the next money-allowance race in the book for him is at six furlongs, and he wants to go farther. Deer Lake, off his last race, as good as he's doing, he deserves a shot."

Pat Day rode both horses in their last races. McGee said Day may be committed to ride Elite Mercedes in the race. "Jorge Chavez will ride one of the two, and I'm hoping Day will ride the other, but I don't know about him yet," McGee said.

Others possible for the Deputy Minister include Binthebest, Fire and Glory, Friendly Frolic, Harmony Hall, Maybry's Boy, and Najran.

Najran would be turning back to a sprint after finishing third in the Hal's Hope Handicap going 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 11.

"I haven't made up my mind yet if he's going to run this weekend," said Nick Zito, who trains Najran. "It's a long year. Right now, I'm leaning against it. I may enter, but I'm not sure I'm going to run."

Zito looks at Oaks more than Derby

Zito is usually one of the mainstays of the Triple Crown trail, but he admits he does not have the stock this year. Zito does, however, have a candidate for the Kentucky Oaks, so the native New Yorker may yet get to his adopted homeland of Kentucky.

Zito's 3-year-old filly Holiday Lady, owned by Tracy Farmer, was a sharp winner on Monday against a first-level allowance field in her first start of the year. She showed some promise last year, including a second-place finish in Churchill's Grade 2 Golden Rod Stakes.

"I thought she ran good, considering she hadn't been out in a long time," Zito said. "Her last race was two months ago."

Zito said his main objective was "to have a good Kentucky with her, and a good summer.

"Hopefully she's that quality of a horse," Zito said.

Zito said his other filly in Monday's ninth race, the aptly named Feisty Step, amazingly "didn't have a scratch on her" following her antics before the start of the race. Feisty Step reared violently in the gate before the start, came out the back of the stall, lost her rider, and headed back up the home stretch at a gallop.

"She's a difficult filly, by Coronado's Quest," Zito said of Feisty Step, who is owned by Satish Sanan's Padua Stables. "They loaded her first. I wish they would have waited and loaded her last. When she got out of there, she took off. You know, Padua has a farm in Ocala, and she was heading north. Right or wrong?"

* Hi Tech Honeycomb, a candidate for Saturday's $100,000 The Very One Handicap at 1 3/8 miles on turf, breezed three furlongs in 36.40 seconds on Tuesday morning for trainer Ken McPeek.

* Allamerican Bertie will have a new rider, Jerry Bailey, for Saturday's $100,000 Sabin Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, trainer Steve Flint said.