02/09/2006 12:00AM

Pedersen-Paragallo a 'tumultuous' union


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With a pair of seemingly talented 3-year-olds in her barn in Achilles of Troy and Scanlon's Song, trainer Jennifer Pedersen should be enjoying herself a lot more than she is these days.

For reasons both personal and professional, this has been a difficult winter for Pedersen. In addition to dealing with some health issues for her and her daughter, Pedersen trains for the impetuous Ernie Paragallo, a hands-on owner in a similar vein as George Steinbrenner, principal owner of baseball's New York Yankees.

"His mother calls him the George Steinbrenner of racing," Pedersen said of Paragallo, for whom she has trained since 2001.

Pedersen describes her relationship with Paragallo as "very tumultuous." While they share similar goals - i.e., winning the Kentucky Derby - the manner in which they go about achieving it is markedly different. Pedersen prefers to take her time with horses while Paragallo has no problems running young horses frequently.

Pedersen believes that philosophy has cost her and Paragallo's Paraneck Stable more chances of running in the Triple Crown races.

"We've had opportunities before and we've blown it," Pedersen said.

Since they've been together, Paragallo and Pedersen have participated in one Kentucky Derby and three Preaknesses. In 2001, Griffinite finished fifth in the Preakness. In 2003, New York Hero ran sixth in the Preakness. In 2004, Song of the Sword finished 11th in the Derby and ninth in the Preakness.

Pedersen has high hopes for both Achilles of Troy, who will be a heavy favorite in Saturday's Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct, and Scanlon's Song, a debut winner who Pedersen believes could be the better of the two colts.

While it would not be her choice to run Achilles of Troy this weekend, she realizes he will be a heavy favorite.

"When you have a good horse you don't need to dance every dance; pick and choose your spots," Pedersen said. "Does [Paragallo] want to prove a point sometimes? Yes."

One example of that came last month when Paragallo decided to wheel back Achilles of Troy in the Count Fleet nine days after he won his maiden. Pedersen would have preferred to wait and run in another sprint. When Achilles of Troy won by 14 lengths and established a stakes record by running a mile and 70 yards in 1:39.61, Paragallo let Pedersen know he was right.

Paragallo admits that his philosophy differs from Pedersen.

"She looks at them more as pets than as racehorses," Paragallo said. "She looks out for their best interests, which is great. Me, I believe if they're fit, things take care of themselves. If you got a fit horse, you got yourself a healthy horse. The worst thing for horses is overtraining them. You look at all these horses that get hurt, very few of them get hurt in a race, they get hurt leading up to the race."

Paragallo and Pedersen began working together in the late 1990's. Pedersen broke horses for Paragallo and her ability to do that has drawn attention from others in the industry. Pedersen broke Sarava, whom Paragallo sold and went on to win the Belmont Stakes.

Recently, Pedersen has been spending a lot of time in Ocala, Fla., breaking many of Paragallo's young horses. Pedersen is even making a video on how to break horses.

"She has a gift for that," Paragallo said. "She breaks horses in a matter of minutes, literally, no joke. I've seen her break horses in five minutes. I've seen her break a horse where it took 45 minutes and she'd be upset."

In addition to spending time in Ocala, Pedersen has also spent time attending to her and her daughter's health issues. Two years ago, Pedersen, now 43, was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat and is on heart medication.

Thirteen months ago, Pedersen's teenage daughter, Teal, was bitten in the face by a pit bull and she required plastic surgery. Earlier this week, Teal needed to undergo another surgical procedure.

Though Pedersen said Paragallo has threatened to fire her many times, Paragallo said Thursday that Pedersen is his trainer "as long as she wants to be."

Said Pedersen: "Do I want to stay with Paraneck? Absolutely, yes. Is it frustrating sometimes? Yes."

Evening Attire blazes in gate work

Evening Attire, who has been hampered by bad breaks in his last two starts, zipped four furlongs in 46.23 seconds Thursday morning out of the gate at Belmont Park. It was the fastest of 37 works at the distance.

Trainer Pat Kelly is pointing Evening Attire to the Stymie Handicap here on March 4.

"We just popped him out of the gate to try and not have a repeat of what happened the other day," said Kelly, who was surprised the horse worked that fast.

In his last start, the Aqueduct Handicap, Evening Attire, 8, walked out of the starting gate before rallying to be second to Happy Hunting. Evening Attire also broke poorly in the Queens County, when he finished fourth behind Philanthropist.

"We can't keep giving them head starts at his age," Kelly said.

* Apprentice jockey David Lopez was taken to North Shore Hospital for X-rays on his ribs after being unseated by his mount, Obi Wan, in Thursday's third race. It appeared as though Obi Wan propped as Lopez was trying to sneak him through a non-existent hole along the rail.