10/30/2003 12:00AM

Is Mediator ready for big time?

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - No one has ever accused trainer Neil Drysdale of pitching a good young colt too high early in his career.

So when Drysdale takes a colt with only two starts and enters him entered in a graded stakes race, it's worth taking note. That's what Drysdale is doing Saturday with Mediator in the Grade 3, $100,000 Bay Meadows Derby.

Mediator, owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., will have seven opponents in the 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds, but the horse who may have been his primary rival, highweight Urban King, will not run. Trainer Bobby Frankel instead entered Bis Repetitas, the runner-up in the Grade 3 Cinema Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hollywood Park.

"Bobby just decided to run the other horse," Frankel's top assistant, Humberto Ascanio, said. "There's nothing wrong with Urban King."

The derby is a logical step for Mediator, who is 2 for 2 in his career, with both starts coming over the Bay Meadows course.

"He's done it very easily," Drysdale said of Mediator, who rallied strongly from well off the pace in both of his wins.

Mediator, a Kentucky-bred son of Theatrical, was in England last year as a 2-year-old when Prince Ahmed bin Salman of The Thoroughbred Corp. suffered a fatal heart attack. The outfit's racing manager, Richard Mulhall, then sent the Theatrical colt to Drysdale.

"When I got him, Richard said to take our time," Drysdale said. "He was backward, and Theatricals improve with age."

In his Aug. 31 debut, Mediator beat the stakes-placed Commercant Vic, who has come back to win two straight, and the older Moher. In his second start, on Sept. 28, Mediator beat older when favored at the first allowance condition.

"In the last race against older horses, he made a long, sustained run," Drysdale said. "He showed a side of him that made us realize he's got some talent, but I don't know if he's ready for this jump."

The Bay Meadows Derby is a paceless affair in which not one runner has seen the lead before the stretch call. Kewen or Eyad might try to steal the race.

Eyad sat close to the pace in his last start, when he won his maiden.

Kewen ran in front of Eyad when he defeated him and stakes winner Blue Blood Boot in a maiden race at Del Mar, but Kewen has come from off the pace in his other starts.