12/30/2001 12:00AM

Hennig hoping for more of the same in Derby


MIAMI - Seven of the nine entrants in Tuesday's $100,000, Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby at Calder come out of the Mecke Stakes run in December over the same turf course. Trainer John Hennig would like to see the same result.

Hennig pulled an upset in the $100,000 Mecke with his colt Political Attack, who went gate to wire at 10-1 to win by 1 1/4 lengths over favored Finality. Political Attack's odds were inflated by a poor performance in his previous start, the Hopemont at Keeneland, where he finished a well-beaten fourth. Hennig thought Political Attack had a legitimate excuse that day and was not stunned to see his colt bounce back last time.

"When we ran him in the Hopemont it rained and it was like a bog," Hennig said Saturday from his Payson Park base. "Another horse went with him, which doesn't usually bother him, but [jockey Craig] Perret said he never handled [the turf] at all. I threw the race out."

If you throw out the Hopemont, Political Attack has been a nice turf runner for Hennig. Forgiving the Hopemont, Political Attack is 3 for 4 on the grass with all three wins coming at a mile or farther. Hennig believes the nine furlongs of the Tropical Park Derby are well within Political Attack's scope.

"Craig said distance won't stop this horse," Hennig said. "I think he's right. He likes the game and he's got natural speed. We pick up a little more weight but the horse has done quite well since the race and he had a great work here on Wednesday."

At 119 pounds, Political Attack will be the co-starting highweight along with Fabulous Frolic Stakes winner Mountain Forum. They will both concede up to seven pounds to the remainder of the field.

As he was in the Mecke, Political Attack should be the controlling speed in the Tropical Park Derby. Mark Guidry has the return call.

Trainer Christophe Clement has the major threat with Deeliteful Guy, who comes off a third-place finish in the Mecke. In that race, Deeliteful Guy was bumped hard at the break and was further back than he prefers in the early stages. After narrowly avoiding a horse that broke down in front of him, Deeliteful Guy put in a good inside run to gain contention but could not catch the winner.

Deeliteful Guy gets in at 112 pounds under Jose Santos, who replaces Rene Douglas in the irons.

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