09/23/2003 11:00PM

Indiana Derby likely to have several stars


ANDERSON, Ind. - Next week's Indiana Derby and Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks are generating quite a buzz as both Grade 3 races are expected to draw strong fields.

The connections of Grand Hombre, Wando, and Wiggins have said they are headed this way for the derby, which will be run Saturday, Oct. 4.

Grand Hombre is an undefeated son of Grand Slam who was recently purchased by Darley and who is now trained by Tom Albertrani. He extended his winning streak to four while making his stakes debut last time out, taking the Grade 3 Pennsylvania Derby for trainer Dennis Manning by 5 1/4 lengths over sloppy footing.

Wando, the Canadian Triple Crown winner, is using the derby as a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Classic. Trained by Mike Keogh, Wando has been on turf for his last two starts and had a five-race win streak snapped last time out when facing older rivals in the Atto Mile.

Wiggins has won three straight and is trained by Anthony Granitz. An Illinois-bred son of Cartwright, Wiggins ventured outside his home state for the first time on Sept. 13 and won the Prairie Meadows Derby by 2 1/2 lengths.

The horse everyone would love to see race here is Funny Cide. The Indiana Derby is one of three races trainer Barclay Tagg has under consideration. He also is looking at the $350,000 Meadowlands Cup against older horses on Oct. 3 and the Empire Classic for New York-breds Oct. 18.

"I've just got a gut feeling we could get him," stakes coordinator Butch Cook said Tuesday.

Other prominent 3-year-olds nominated are Dynever, Peace Rules, and Toccet, but they are not expected to run.

The past two winners of the Indiana Derby have gone on to distinguished careers. The 2001 winner, Orientate, captured last year's Eclipse Award as the nation's top sprinter. Last year's Indiana Derby winner, Perfect Drift, has developed into a top-flight handicap horse and won the Stephen Foster and Washington Park handicaps this season.

Considered likely for next Friday night's Oaks are Awesome Humor, Fast Cookie, and Finally Here.

Awesome Humor, who was 4 for 4 as a 2-year-old last season, has been second in her last three starts, the Delaware Oaks, Alabama Stakes, and the Turfway Park Breeders' Cup.

Fast Cookie owns a 4-3-3 mark from 14 starts. She is graded stakes placed this year with a third in the Grade 3 La Troienne at Churchill Downs. Bill Mott trains Fast Cookie.

Finally Here, trained by Tom Amoss, has rattled off five straight wins this year, including the Grade 3 Duchess at Woodbine and the Smart Deb Stakes at Arlington Park in her last two starts.

* Ralph Martinez continues to amaze with his 46-percent win rate at this meet. Martinez saddled three winners on a card for the second time this year on Sept. 17, again equaling the record shared by nine other trainers. He became the first to pull off the hat trick twice in a season. Martinez has sent out 41 starters this meet and collected 19 wins to lead the trainer standings by seven over Marv Johnson. Martinez sits in sixth on the national list of trainers by wins with 155 winners from 545 starters (28 percent).