02/09/2004 1:00AM

Nicks must get by his dad


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Ralph Nicks, a longtime assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, can win his first race as a trainer Wednesday, when Added Edge runs at Oaklawn Park. But one horse who will be a threat in the race is Bright Sea, who is trained by Nicks's father, Morris.

Added Edge and Bright Sea will meet in the eighth, a one-mile money allowance for older horses. The field of eight includes U S S Tinosa, who makes his first start for trainer Cole Norman, and Big Numbers, who makes his first start since August for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Added Edge looks like a solid favorite. The champion 2-year-old in Canada in 2002, he comes into the allowance off a strong third-place finish to Roar of the Tiger in a $75,000 optional claimer at Oaklawn on Jan. 24.

"He ran hard," said Ralph Nicks, who trains Added Edge for Team Valor and Robert Wilson. "He'd been off since October. He should benefit from the race."

Added Edge, who has good speed, set the early pace but should not be considered one-dimensional.

"It was being fresh," Ralph Nicks said. "After having a race, he'll probably settle a little better and hopefully finish up well."

Ralph Nicks, 37, was named private trainer for Team Valor in November. He has saddled horses in his own name for the first time this year and has had four starters through Tuesday. His best finish was Shadowland's second-place effort in the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds.

Before going out on his own, Ralph Nicks was assistant to Mott for more than 10 years. During that time he handled such horses as Cigar.

"I'm ready to get [the first win] behind us and hopefully, have a big future in front of us," said Ralph, who trains Kentucky Derby candidate Tiger Hunt.

Terry Thompson will ride Added Edge.

Leading rider John McKee will reunite with Bright Sea, who finished sixth in the same optional claimer as Added Edge. Since that race, Bright Sea worked a bullet three furlongs in 36.60 seconds.

He looks like a nice fit on Beyer Speed Figures, as well as class. Two starts ago, Bright Sea finished third to Sir Cherokee, a candidate for the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap, in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs.

U S S Tinosa last raced Jan. 1, finishing sixth in an optional claimer at Golden Gate.