04/04/2004 11:00PM

Many on road to Wood Memorial


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - They are coming from California, Florida, Maryland, and Pennsylvania to run in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, with as many as 12 horses expected to compete in New York's final prep for the May 1 Kentucky Derby.

There is no clear-cut favorite for the Wood, which has produced three of the last four Kentucky Derby winners. Master David, who has not run since winning the Sham Stakes on Feb. 8, figures to vie for favoritism with Eddington, the third-place finisher in the Gotham, and Value Plus, the Florida Derby runner-up.

The horses under consideration for the Wood are based at seven different tracks. As of Monday, the 11 horses considered definite to run were: Bride's Best Boy (no rider), Consecrate (Jorge Chavez), Cuba (no rider), Eddington (Jerry Bailey), Hornshope (no rider), Little Matth Man (Pablo Fragoso), Master David (Alex Solis), Sinister G (Paul Toscano), Swingforthefences (Shaun Bridgmohan), Tapit (no rider), and Value Plus (John Velazquez). It is likely trainer Nick Zito will send Royal Assault to the Wood, and he has not completely ruled out The Cliff's Edge.

Master David, who missed a scheduled start in the Florida Derby due to a temperature, completed his Wood preparations by working five furlongs in 1:00.60 Monday at Hollywood Park. Master David, who finished second to Read the Footnotes in last year's Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct, was scheduled to ship to New York early Tuesday morning, according to trainer Bobby Frankel.

"I just want to get a good race into him and earn some money so we can get into the Derby,'' Frankel said.

Across town at Santa Anita, Consecrate worked four furlongs in 46.60 seconds for trainer Bob Baffert.

The Wood horses stabled in New York have had to train around a spate of wet weather that has made for some quirky surfaces lately. Eddington worked five furlongs in 1:03.81 on Sunday over a Belmont training track labeled good.

"I couldn't have been happier with the way he went,'' trainer Mark Hennig said. "Other than me worrying, [the weather] hasn't gotten in our way. I'm not worried about fitness. The last race was the first time I ever saw him blow; it did a lot for him from a physical standpoint.''

Tom Bush elected to work Cuba on Sunday and that colt went five furlongs in 1:01.43, the fastest of 17 works at the distance. Though Cuba is only a maiden winner, Bush thinks highly of his colt's chances in the Wood.

Though forecasted snow never fell Monday morning in New York, frigid temperatures forced training on the main track to be halted after the renovation break. That prompted John Toscano, trainer of Lane's End winner Sinister G, to push back a work until Tuesday.

Bride's Best Boy and Hornshope, both entry-level allowance winners last out, were expected to breeze Tuesday at Belmont and Aqueduct, respectively.

In Florida, Value Plus worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.60 seconds Sunday at the Palm Meadows training center.

Meanwhile, trainer Rick Violette was all smiles after watching Swingforthefences work five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Saturday in his final prep for the Wood.

"He went great," said Violette. "He couldn't be doing better. He'll fly up to New York on Tuesday. I thought he ran very well even though he finished third in the Tampa Bay Derby, since he was so high strung prior to the race and a lot closer to the pace than he prefers.

"Obviously, he needs to run a big race in the Wood. He'd probably have to pick up at least third money just to qualify to get into the Derby the way things look right now."

* Read the Footnotes, Violette's top Derby prospect, breezed an easy six furlongs in 1:14.60 on Friday and is scheduled to work at Palm Meadows again on Thursday morning.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch