07/09/2002 11:00PM

Gygistar's next? Jim Dandy.

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ELMONT, N.Y. - It wasn't picture perfect, but a win is a win.

Can Gygistar, owned by Edward Evans, stay a distance and, at season's end, take his place with the leaders of the 3-year-old division? He won Sunday's $150,000 Dwyer at 1 1/16 miles to boost his trainer, Mark Hennig, among the top 10 in the national standings with purse winnings of more than $3.3 million. But Hennig needs more convincing, and indicates he may seek it in Saratoga's $500,000 Jim Dandy at nine furlongs on Aug. 4.

"The Dwyer didn't quite unfold the way we thought it would," Hennig was saying the other day, "though we were satisfied with the result. Am I convinced he will stay a distance? Not wholeheartedly, but we'll probably take another step and the Jim Dandy is a possibility. He led all the way in the Dwyer and he never did that before.

"John Velazquez got off him and said he ran a little green. "

Gygistar, a talented gelding who has won 5 of 6 starts, opened a lead of six lengths near the furlong pole in the Dwyer but was all out in the final strides to stave off a challenge by the promising Nothing Flat, who missed by only half a length.

"Gygistar wasn't changing leads through the stretch," Hennig said. "But Velazquez said that when he became aware of Nothing Flat approaching, he grabbed the bridle and quickly switched leads. It was a good response."

Evans's horses, all homebreds, including Raging Fever, Summer Colony, Seeking Daylight, With Ability, and Gold Mover, have been responding strongly all season, a development that can be traced to his decision in 1990 to stock his stable with quality yearling fillies. He's been an owner for some 30 years, but the stable wasn't making progress. A new approach was indicated.

"It's a long haul," Evans said. "By the time you buy them and race them and retire them and breed them and then race the foals, you're talking about 10 years. But it seems to have worked out. There are other approaches and people have had success with them."

Evans bred 88 mares this past spring at his 3,000-acre Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va., an hour's drive west of Washington, D.C. He will sell about half of the foal crop and race the produce of such mares as Star County, the dam of Gygistar. Evans bought Star County at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sales of 1991 for $400,000. Her racing career was very limited. She has produced some good horses such as Gygistar and the promising 2-year-old filly Stellar, who was sold for $700,000 at Keeneland in April.

Evans's personal favorites are Minstrella, a filly by The Minstrel who was a champion in Ireland at a time when Evans raced a small stable in Europe. He also has a great affection for the stakes-winning Raging Fever, whose courage has been underscored time and again through a series of outstanding performances this year.

Evans comes from a racing family. His late father, Thomas Mellon Evans, raced a nationally prominent stable. His Pleasant Colony won the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Evans, a former chairman of the MacMillan Publishing company, now heads his own business.