10/31/2001 1:00AM

Millennium Wind makes return


ARCADIA, Calif. - Blue Grass winner Millennium Wind, who has not raced since finishing 11th in the Kentucky Derby in May, returns in Friday's $74,000 Skywalker Handicap at Santa Anita.

Trainer David Hofmans is using the Skywalker to launch Millennium Wind's fall campaign, which is tentatively scheduled to include the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 24. Wintertime goals include the Strub series at Santa Anita, which starts with the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26.

"I think I've got him ready for a winter campaign," Hofmans said. "Hopefully, we'll continue on."

Despite the layoff, Millennium Wind will be favored in the one-mile Skywalker against five others, none of whom has a Grade 1 win this year.

The competition includes I Love Silver, who was third in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap over six furlongs on Oct. 6; Red Eye, the winner of the Grace Handicap at Santa Rosa in August; and Dig For It, who was third in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

I Love Silver was pre-entered for the Breeders' Cup Mile and Sprint but never left California. He was not selected for the main field of the Sprint, which was the main choice of owners Kirk and Judy Robison and trainer Dean Greenman.

Greenman is considering a start in the Cigar Mile for I Love Silver.

The Skywalker will be I Love Silver's first start around two turns since he finished third behind Point Given and Crafty C.T. in the Santa Anita Derby last April.

"I want to see how he'll do now around two turns," Greenman said. "There are opportunities down the road."

Millennium Wind will be ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., who was aboard in the Blue Grass and the Kentucky Derby. Pincay was also aboard for Millennium Wind's seven-furlong workout in 1:28.40 at Hollywood Park last Sunday, which convinced Hofmans that Millennium Wind was ready to start.

Owned by Dave and Jill Heerensperger, Millennium Wind has been in serious training since Del Mar. Hofmans considered the Pegasus Handicap at The Meadowlands on Oct. 19, but dropped that race from Millennium Wind's schedule because of a lack of preparation.

Earlier this year, Millennium Wind was plagued by a skin fungus that caused cracked heels and unattractive blotches on his coat. Hofmans said the skin fungus is no longer a problem.

"He's gained weight and his skin has cleared up," Hofmans said. "He's taller and has really filled out."

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