04/05/2004 11:00PM

Minikes's big week could get bigger


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - When his Georgica Stable won Grade 1 races on consecutive days last September, owner Peter Minikes called it the best weekend of his life.

There's a chance this week could top that.

Monday, Minikes welcomed his first child into the world when his wife, Jeni, gave birth to a baby girl named Jessie. Saturday, Minikes will find out if he has his first Kentucky Derby horse when Master David runs in the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

By virtue of having not run since winning the Sham Stakes on Feb. 8, combined with the weekly dose of upsets in major 3-year-old stakes, Master David still remains high atop many handicappers' lists of Derby candidates. Saturday, against 11 other would-be Derby hopefuls, Master David must prove he belongs.

"I think he's proven he's a nice horse - he still has to step up and show he's one of the better ones," Minikes, 34, said Tuesday from the Manhattan hospital where his baby was born.

Master David probably needs a top-three finish to have enough graded-stakes earnings to get into the Derby. It is likely more than 20 horses will be entered for the race, and earnings in graded stakes will determine who gets in. Master David, who missed the Florida Derby because of a fever, has only $58,000 in graded-stakes earnings.

Should Master David make it to Louisville, it would complete an unlikely journey for the colt and his connections. Master David began his career racing on turf in Europe. Minikes, a New Yorker, purchased him last fall and raced him once here before sending him to Southern California and Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel.

Moreover, had Buy the Sport not won the Grade 1 Gazelle last September, Minikes and his partners, Stephen Mack and Andrew Rosen, probably wouldn't have purchased Master David in the first place.

Master David was the first colt Minikes bought. Minikes, an investment adviser for a Manhattan-based securities firm, believes there is more residual value in buying fillies.

"If you buy a filly and she can't run, at least you can breed her and try to make a broodmare out of her," said Minikes, who also won last year's Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup with the filly Indy Five Hundred. "If you buy a colt that can't run, what have you got? I'm not in position where I can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and not have anything to show for it."

Minikes and his partners had purchased Buy the Sport from owner David Sullivan and trainer Brian Meehan in August after declining to buy her six months earlier when she failed a veterinary examination. When Meehan came to saddle Buy the Sport in the Gazelle, he told Minikes about a 2-year-old son of Grand Slam that he liked. That Kentucky-bred colt, Master David, won a maiden turf race in England one week after Buy the Sport won the Gazelle.

"I thought, we have nothing to lose, what the heck," said Minikes. In addition, Mack - one of Minikes's partners - is the son of William Mack, a part-owner of Grand Slam.

Master David made his dirt and North American debut in the Remsen Stakes here, where he finished second, 3 3/4 lengths behind Read the Footnotes, but nearly 11 lengths ahead of the rest of the field.

Meehan wanted to take the horse back to England to prepare for the Kentucky Derby. Minikes wanted to keep Master David in the States and have him winter in south Florida or California. When Bob Barbara, Minikes's trainer, declined to leave New York for the winter, Minikes contacted Frankel.

In his first start for Frankel, Master David broke slowly and ran a bit spotty while finishing third in the Grade 3 Santa Catalina. Three weeks later, in the Sham, Master David attended the pace, and though he ran a bit spotty again, he beat Borrego by a half-length. Action This Day, the champion 2-year-old, finished fourth in that race.

"It was nice he won, but you'd like to see him win in a different manner," Minikes said. "I wouldn't want to keep doing that all the time. But, Bobby only had him a month before those two races. Now, he's had him for a few months."

The birth of his daughter has helped Minikes keep the importance of this weekend's race in perspective.

"If he doesn't get to the Derby, it's not the end of the world," Minikes said. "I'm a guy who gets a little keyed up before a big race, and this definitely takes a little of the steam out of me. If we don't run well, good things have already happened this week."