03/25/2004 12:00AM

One Tough Dude getting good


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Not that he needs any, but trainer Phil Johnson has added incentive to get back to his barn.

One Tough Dude, a promising 3-year-old, won an entry-level allowance race by 11 lengths here on Wednesday, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. One Tough Dude is now 2 for 2 at one mile over Aqueduct's main track, which makes him a logical candidate for the Grade 3, $150,000 Withers Stakes here May 1. The Withers is run at one mile.

Johnson, through his wife, Mary Kay, indicated on Thursday that he would consider the Withers for One Tough Dude's next start. One Tough Dude is a Maryland-bred son of Rubiyat, who finished second in the 1998 Withers.

Johnson, the 78-year-old Hall of Fame trainer who upset the 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic with Volponi, is one tough dude himself. He has spent most of the winter recovering from successful radiation treatments for cancer.

In his absence, longtime assistants Ocala and Deb Cedano have been running the barn. As they watched the replay of Wednesday's race, the Cedanos talked glowingly about One Tough Dude and are hopeful that his three losses during the winter were simply a product of a dislike for Aqueduct's inner track.

Last November, One Tough Dude was good enough to beat Eddington in a one-mile maiden race over the main track. Since then, Eddington has developed into one of the more promising contenders for the Kentucky Derby.

"Maybe he didn't like the inner track," Ocala Cedano said. "In the Count Fleet," where One Tough Dude finished 27 lengths behind Smarty Jones, "he had blinkers on and he might not have liked that either."

One Tough Dude showed speed and the ability to sit off another horse in his allowance win. He broke on top, but was content to let Sonny and Rose take the lead from him. One Tough Dude went back in front just before the half-mile marker and covered the mile in a solid 1:36.71 under Aaron Gryder.

"He has some speed, but he's not unmanageable with his speed," said Deb Cedano, noting Gryder didn't have to fight to get him back.

The Cedanos both said that One Tough Dude does better with significant time between races, and he'd have more than five weeks to the Withers.

Song of the Sword readies for Illinois

The undefeated Song of the Sword tuned up for his stakes debut in next Saturday's $500,0000 Illinois Derby by working six furlongs in 1:13.48 over Aqueduct's main track Thursday morning.

With regular rider Richard Migliore up, Song of the Sword broke off several lengths behind a filly, and passed her along the inside in the stretch. Song of the Sword will most likely breeze here one more time next week before shipping to Chicago on April 1.

"He breezed great," Migliore said. "I broke off a ways behind that filly. I picked her up pretty easily, I thought. That sucker is getting bigger and stronger all the time. He nearly dropped me warming up."

Song of the Sword, a son of Unbridled's Song, put together three wins in a span of five weeks. He won his maiden on Feb. 4, an entry-level allowance on Feb. 20, and an optional claiming race by a nose over Sinister G on March 5. Sinister G came back to win last weekend's Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park.

In his last start, Song of the Sword earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

Rogue Agent set for Excelsior

Rogue Agent, who has been hampered by a foot injury, worked four furlongs in 48.21 seconds Thursday at Belmont Park in preparation for next weekend's Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap.

It was Rogue Agent's first breeze since the John Campbell Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 14, a race in which he finished second but was disqualified to third after interfering with Evening Attire in the stretch.

Earlier this month, Rogue Agent was found to have a quarter crack on his left front foot. Rogue Agent initially injured himself when he finished third in the Aqueduct Handicap in January.

"He re-injured it and it really bothered him," Brice said. "The main thing we had to do was cool it out. We put a fiberglass patch over it and he's been doing fine."

Brice considered running Rogue Agent in an allowance race last week, but the horse missed four days of training due to bad weather. While the Excelsior is expected to include Funny Cide, that is not the horse Brice fears.

"My personal opinion is Evening Attire, Ole Faunty, and Rogue Agent - they're the ones to be careful of," Brice said. "Funny Cide, naturally, he's a great horse, but I don't know if he's [heading] in the right direction or not."

Bailey to ride Eddington

Jerry Bailey will be back aboard Eddington when he runs in the Wood Memorial on April 10, trainer Mark Hennig said Thursday.

Bailey was aboard for Eddington's two victories at Gulfstream Park. Bailey was committed to ride Birdstone in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway the same day Eddington ran in the Gotham. Edgar Prado was aboard Eddington for the Gotham, in which Eddington finished third behind Saratoga County after being bumped hard at the start and failing to change leads in the stretch.