04/12/2004 12:00AM

Nose may cost Eddington spot in Derby


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Mark Hennig did not know how prophetic his words would be on April 6, when, during a national conference call, he said, "a horse could be third beaten a half a length in the Wood and not get into the Kentucky Derby. . . . There's an outside chance the best 3-year-old might be sitting on the sidelines on Derby Day."

The Hennig-trained Eddington did indeed finish third in last Saturday's Wood Memorial, beaten a half-length by Tapit. More importantly, Eddington lost a nose decision to Master David for second and is now in jeopardy of remaining in his Belmont Park stall come Derby Day.

The Derby field is limited to 20 horses and the criteria for determining the field - provided more than 20 are entered - is earnings in graded stakes. Eddington has $95,000 in graded stakes earnings and, as of Monday, would not get into the race. It is not clear exactly how many horses are ahead of Eddington because there are likely to be some defections among the horses who have earned more than Eddington and who are not scheduled to run again before the Derby.

Hennig and owner Peter Willmott will also have to hope that nothing happens in Saturday's $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland that would cost Eddington a position on the earnings list.

On Monday, Hennig said Eddington came out of the Wood in great shape and "if we get an opportunity, we'd like to run" in the Kentucky Derby.

Hennig still believes Eddington has as much talent as any 3-year-old around, and that he has yet to run his best race. Jockey Jerry Bailey told Hennig that Eddington "went into idle mode" when he made the lead turning for home and that he didn't start running again until Master David put a neck in front of him in midstretch. Hennig said he might open up Eddington's blinkers a little bit to "get a little better field of vision."

"He just gives you the feeling he just needs to put his head down and run," Hennig said. "He sure looks like he should be able to level out and finish stronger. I don't think he's quite got that competitive game-face together."

Hennig said he would train Eddington as though he were going to run in the Kentucky Derby and would hope to have a definitive answer before shipping to Churchill Downs. Hennig said that if Eddington did not get into the Derby, he would most likely be pointed to the Preakness on May 15 without a race in between.

Sinister G looks for easier spots

One horse ahead of Eddington on the earnings list who will not be running in the Kentucky Derby is Sinister G, the 10th-place finisher in Saturday's Wood. Sinister G had stamped himself a potential Derby contender with an upset victory in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway last month.

Trainer John Toscano Jr. said Monday that Sinister G jumped tire tracks and footprints early in the race and that compromised his performance. Toscano said that he might look for an allowance race and then possibly point Sinister G to the Ohio Derby at Thistledown on June 12.

"We could duck the big guys and knock out some big money with him," Toscano said.

Toscano said that had Sinister G not played around early in the race, "he'd have been two [lengths] in front." Toscano said that Sinister G "jumped whatever he saw" in the Whirlaway Stakes on Feb. 7 when he finished last.

"Now you know why we nicknamed him Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," Toscano said. "Maybe I have to blindfold him completely. What about sunglasses?"

Sinister G does race with a huge shadow roll. Toscano said he may try blinkers on Sinister G, equipment the horse does train in but has yet to race in.

Trainer Rick Violette said that Swingforthefences, who finished fourth in the Wood, would not be pointed to the Derby. Violette mentioned the Withers at Aqueduct on May 1 as a possibility.

Lobo weighs Pico Central's options

Pico Central, the impressive winner of Saturday's Grade 1 Carter Handicap, was scheduled to return Tuesday to his home base in Southern California, where his trainer, Paulo Lobo, and owner, Gary Tanaka, will map out his future campaign.

"He came out of the race perfect, very good shape, and he's coming back home [Tuesday] morning," Lobo said Monday from California. "We haven't decided yet what we are going to do."

There are plenty of options, most notably a return trip to New York for the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on May 31. However, Pico Central is a proven Group 1 horse on the turf, and there is also a chance Lobo and Tanaka may want to stretch Pico Central out.

Pico Central earned a 116 Beyer Speed Figure for his victory in the Carter, a race in which he outfinished the multiple graded stakes winner Strong Hope by 1 1/4 lengths. His final time of 1:20.22 was the second-fastest Carter in the 96 runnings at the seven-furlong distance. Only Artax, who set Aqueduct's seven-furlong track record of 1:20.04 winning the 1999 Carter, ran faster.

"He won at a mile [on grass] in Brazil and Hard Buck was second, and Hard Buck is a Grade 1 winner here," Lobo said. "I don't think he's surprised me a lot. I think he's improving race by race in the United Stakes."

Pico Central has won all three of his starts in the United Stakes. He was placed first via disqualification in an optional claiming race before winning the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was pleased with Strong Hope's race and will definitely point him to the Met Mile. Pletcher said that Lion Tamer, winner of Saturday's Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneland, is also possible for the Met Mile.

One Tough Dude switches barns

The promising 3-year-old One Tough Dude was one of four horses owned by Peter and Elizabeth Walsh and previously trained by Phil Johnson that have been moved to the barn of Mike Hushion.

The other horses include Lila Paige, Blue Skies Ahead, and Big Kahuna. The timing of the move is a bit odd considering three of the four horses are coming off winning races.

One Tough Dude, a son of Rubiyat, won an entry-level allowance race by 11 lengths on March 24, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. Since he is 2 for 2 at one mile over Aqueduct's main track, he would be a candidate for the Withers on May 1.

"I've only had one conversation with the guy," Hushion said of Peter Walsh. "We're a long way from making a decision."

McLaughlin entry strong Wednesday

The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained entry of Prall Street and Itawtisawaputtytat head Wednesday's featured entry-level allowance race at six furlongs.

Prall Street won her maiden at first asking by 5 3/4 lengths over the inner track before finishing third as the favorite behind the Todd Pletcher-trained Forestier on March 13. Prall Street shows two solid works since the race and should get a stalking trip from the outside post in the seven-horse field.

Itawtisawaputtytat cuts back to six furlongs after finishing fifth at a mile here on March 18. He is 0 for 2 on a wet track, conditions he figures to face on Wednesday.

Special Tactics also cuts back to six furlongs after finishing third going a mile in the mud last out.