07/05/2001 11:00PM

New challengers to emerge from Dwyer


PHOENIX - Whether you call it the buzz horse, the comer, or the new challenger, the title will go to Hero's Tribute or E Dubai should either win Sunday's Grade 2 Dwyer at Belmont. The winner of Sunday's race will be expected to challenge the big boys down the road.

That is a realistic possibility this year. If you had conducted a poll before the Florida Derby, it's possible more people would have chosen Hero's Tribute than Monarchos as John Ward's best 3-year-old.

All it took was one poor effort in the Blue Grass, and some foot problems, and Hero's Tribute dropped out of most fans' minds. He then made a big comeback with a terrific score in the Peter Pan, beating E Dubai.

E Dubai, however, gave Hero's Tribute a scare in that race, and may still be improving. It was just his second race in the United States this year, and he could close the gap in the Dwyer.

But there is a concern: Why didn't Godolphin talk about E Dubai as a Triple Crown candidate? Express Tour ran in the Derby despite developing foot problems before the race, but why didn't Godolphin have E Dubai pinch hit for Street Cry, who was hurt the week before the Derby?

Maybe Godolphin was telling us that while E Dubai was a nice horse, he wasn't top shelf. If that's the case, then how will he handle Hero's Tribute? Or maybe E Dubai just wasn't ready for that kind of assignment in the spring.

Hero's Tribute and E Dubai are trying to close in on the big boys, and the Dwyer is a good place to start.

Crying over weight

I know it comes with the trainer's handbook, but the recent complaining over weight assignments seems awfully silly.

Two very good trainers, Jim Chapman and Bud Delp, keep telling us how good their respective stable stars, Caller One and Include, are. Then, when some racing secretary gives them respect in the form of weight, they start beefing. Chapman tells us that Caller One is the best sprinter in the country. He might be right. Yet when Caller One was given 126 pounds for last week's Triple Bend, Chapman was aghast.

Trainers are worried what a heavy weight assignment will mean down the road. In Caller One's case, it does not mean some racing secretary will give him 128 if he wins under 126. That just isn't going to happen. Racing secretaries nowadays tend to handle that situation by assigning less weight to the low weights, not more to the highweight.

Delp, who so deftly guided the career of Spectacular Bid, the horse I believe is the best to have stepped on a track, has said Include is as good as any horse in the country.

Then out comes the Suburban assignment of 122 pounds for Include, who was coming off big wins in the Pimlico Special and Mass Cap. You would have thought they had asked Delp to give the others a furlong head start. Include wasn't even the highweight in the Suburban. That fell to Albert the Great, who carried 123.

The weight issue will never be as important as it once was. The standard for true greatness now isn't the ability to carry weight, it's domination of opponents and running fast times. Carrying weight is no longer part of the equation.

But you can't have it both ways. You can't sing the praises of your horse, then complain when the racing secretary agrees with you and gives you weight.

I've worked with horses, and considering the way they threw me around, three or four pounds either way means zilch to these powerhouses.

Include ran in the Suburban, and finished a solid third, but the loss wasn't a function of the weight. It was a function of a very good horse - Albert the Great - having things his way on the track he thinks he owns.

Caller One? He scratched, with an eye toward Del Mar's Bing Crosby because, as Chapman noted, if Kona Gold shows up there he'd have to give Caller One weight.

Maybe trainers who complain about weight really believe they're looking out for the best interest of the horse. But when you ask for respect and it comes back to you in the form of a big weight assignment - the way it's been doled out in the game for over a century - take it and let your horse do the talking for you.