10/06/2004 12:00AM

Herculated to save heroics for later

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CHICAGO - The human connections of Herculated just don't see the point of a "show the world" approach, not right now at least. The time is not ripe to tackle Grade 1 horses in this weekend's Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, so Herculated is coming back to Chicago instead, and he probably will be favored Saturday at Hawthorne in the $150,000 Carey Memorial Handicap.

It is a weekend of turf miles, with the Oak Tree Breeders' Cup Mile in California and the Kelso at Belmont beefing up the menu. The Oak Tree, Kelso, and Shadwell have Breeders' Cup Mile implications, but the Grade 3 Carey almost certainly does not. And that is a big part of the reason why Herculated is shipping in from Kentucky.

"I'd rather be even-money than 10-1," said Mike Stidham, who trains Herculated for Oak Crest Farm. "It's a situation that if he runs his race, I know he can beat these horses - if he runs his race. We did have the intention of running in the Shadwell. He worked on the turf at Keeneland, and he's doing good. At some point you step up and take a shot, but there'll be other opportunities down the road."

As of Wednesday, a field of about eight was coming together for the Carey, won last year by the injured Mystery Giver. Also expected to start are Gin and Sin, False Promises, Cloudy's Knight, Holy Conflict, Scooter Roach, Major Rhythm, Missme, and G P Fleet.

Chicago-based jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. was going to travel to Keeneland to ride Herculated had he run in the Shadwell, and Stidham said he had secured Marquez's services Saturday at Hawthorne. Marquez has ridden the 4-year-old Herculated only once, piloting the gelding to a striking comeback win Aug. 7 in the Sea o'Erin Breeders' Cup, Herculated's first start since sore feet took him out of training in early summer. The break since the Sea o'Erin has come by design, according to Stidham, and Herculated has been thriving physically. Earlier in the year, in his first graded stakes start, Herculated finished second in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds.

Options for Cloudy's Knight

The trainer Frank Kirby still has not made a final decision on where Cloudy's Knight will start this weekend. The most likely spot is the Carey, but Kirby could still take a different route and send Cloudy's Knight to the Sycamore at Keeneland. That race is at 12 furlongs, the Carey at a mile, and Cloudy's Knight's ideal trip probably falls somewhere in between. That's why Kirby has vacillated. But after Cloudy's Knight worked a half-mile on turf Wednesday at Hawthorne, the horse is ready to do something.

"He worked beautiful," Kirby said, "and he looked good doing it. [Jockey] Chris Emigh said he really handled the grass course well."

Cloudy's Knight, a late-bloomer, has won two in a row, and beat Gin and Sin, a likely Carey starter, in an overnight stakes at Arlington last out.

Also on Wednesday morning, Kirby sent out the graded stakes filly Bare Necessities for a five-furlong work in 1:00.60, fourth fastest among 39 works at the distance. Bare Necessities hasn't race since she finished unplaced in the Arlington Matron last month at Arlington, but she nevertheless remains a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"It's not completely out of the question," said Kirby, who might prefer and wait for a November stakes race, perhaps at Churchill Downs. "We'll see how she comes out of the breeze and go from there."

Right spot for Easy Grades

In the spring of his 3-year-old season, in 2002, Easy Grades was a California 3-year-old with enough talent to think Triple Crown, but his career went down quite a different path. Now 5, Easy Grades comes into Hawthorne's featured first race on Friday, second-level allowance route, seeking his first win since August 2002.

There have been eight losses and a 15-month layoff since Easy Grades, trained then by Ted H. West, won an entry-level allowance race at Del Mar. Now he resides in the barn of Kentucky-based James Baker, and finally, on Sept. 4 at Ellis Park, there was positive news. Easy Grades finished a clear second in a second-level allowance race, hardly a standout performance, but by far his best effort since his midsummer comeback. The Ellis race came at one mile, which is not quite two turns at Ellis, and the 1 1/16 miles of Hawthorne's feature, a true route, probably is better for him.

Neither Easy Grades nor any of the other five runners have early speed, and the race shapes up as a tactical battle. Ship Alert and Summer Book, drawn on the rail and in post 2, both have win credentials, and these two at least will save ground if the field stacks up going into the first turn.