05/19/2005 12:00AM

Miracle Man fits better in Select


OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer John Hennig doesn't have an easy answer as to why Miracle Man ran so poorly in the Derby Trial.

Perhaps it was the added distance. Miracle Man won his first three starts, which ranged from five to seven furlongs, with such ease that the one-mile stakes at Churchill Downs was a logical progression.

Maybe the class hike for Miracle Man's first stakes appearance was too ambitious. ran with the pack in the early stages before flattening out to finish fourth, 20 1/2 lengths behind Don't Get Mad.

Whatever the reason, Hennig figures the $60,000 Select Stakes for 3-year-olds going six furlongs Saturday at Monmouth Park will be a better fit.

"We got beat in the Derby Trial by a pretty nice horse," Hennig said. "I don't know if he didn't like the inside that day or if he didn't like the distance. We're going back to a distance we know he can perform at."

While this is only his fifth start, Miracle Man will be appearing at his fourth racetrack. He won his maiden last May at Churchill Downs in his lone 2-year-old race.

He got no respect at the betting windows for his 3-year-old debut at Gulfstream Park in February. A 19-1 outsider, Miracle Man edged away to a 2 1/4-length win.

He romped in his next outing, winning an allowance race at Keeneland by 7 1/2 lengths. The price, not surprisingly, was 8-5.

He had impressed handicappers to a point where he was 7-2 in the Derby Trial.

The return to six furlongs should depress the price on Miracle Man in the Select.

"I think that seven-eighths to three-quarters of a mile is probably his best distance," Hennig said. "We will try him longer later. He's a strong, beautiful horse."

Miracle Man gets a rider change. Stewart Elliott replaces Cornelio Velasquez, who had been aboard for all four prior races.

Hennig, the father of New York-based trainer Mark Hennig and the father-in-law of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, is spending his first season at Monmouth.

This is a permanent move. Hennig pulled up stakes in Kentucky, sold the house, and relocated to the Jersey Shore.

"We're here to play the game," Hennig said. "I've always enjoyed the area. I came here to race, but we're also closer to where the kids and grandkids live."

Hennig brought 13 horses to Monmouth, including Cool Spell, the runner-up in the La Trioenne Stakes at Churchill Downs. Hennig is pointing her toward Monmouth's Grade 3, $150,000 Boiling Springs Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on May 29.