03/18/2005 12:00AM

Perfect after two, Mayan King a star in Cassidy's eyes

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For David Cassidy to steal away a good horse at auction from deep-pocketed owners like Sheikh Mohammed or Coolmore Stud, something unusual has to happen. In March 2004, at the Ocala Breeders Sales of 2-year-olds-in-training, something unusual did.

A son of Stephen Got Even was preparing for his second breeze before the sale when he threw his rider and ran off. Gary Contessa, Cassidy's trainer, put a stopwatch on the colt and clocked him going a quarter mile in 21.20 seconds before he busted through a fence. Amazed by what they had just seen, and knowing that the colt's first breeze of 10.40 seconds was his first ever workout, Cassidy told Contessa, "I have to have this horse."

When the hammer fell at $210,000, Cassidy - the former star of the 1970's show "The Partridge Family" - and his partners, Ed Lipton and Tom Daly, thought they had found themselves a bargain. Only three weeks earlier, Sheikh Mohammed purchased a son of Stephen Got Even for $3.1 million at another 2-year-old-in-training sale.

Cassidy named his Stephen Got Even colt Mayan King, for the road in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Cassidy and Lipton own houses. Mayan King has won his first two starts at Aqueduct. He will try to join the Triple Crown trail when he runs in Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. Stephen Got Even won this race in 1999, when it was called the Galleryfurn-iture.com Stakes.

Cassidy, 54, has been involved in horse racing since the 1970's, primarily as a breeder. His claim to fame was selling the mare In Neon in foal to Storm Cat. The resulting foal was the multiple Grade 1 winner Sharp Cat. In the mid-1980's, when he first began racing horses, Cassidy had a promising 3-year-old, Lightning Touch, who finished third in the Louisiana Derby but got hurt leading up to the Arkansas Derby.

To Cassidy, Mayan King is "the best horse I ever owned. I wanted to own a horse that legitimately had a shot at being a classic horse, and I believe he's all of that."

That is why Cassidy and his partners turned down $750,000 after Mayan King won his maiden Jan. 28 and a seven-figure offer following Mayan King's entry-level allowance win on Feb. 26.

Contessa had Mayan King ready to run last summer at Saratoga, but the colt wrenched an ankle five days before his scheduled debut and had to be taken out of training.

In his debut, Mayan King raced a bit greenly in the stretch, changing leads late and bearing in. Still, he won by 1 1/4 lengths. He made his second start in a one-mile, entry-level allowance race around two turns and was much more professional. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86 in both starts.

"He's got the potential to be one of the most exciting horses I've ever trained," said Contessa, who won a Grade 1 with Do It With Style and trained Peace Rules before selling him late in his 2-year-old season.

Should Mayan King run 1-2-3 in the Lane's End, it is likely he would run in the $325,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23, with the hope of punching his ticket to the Kentucky Derby.

"There's tremendous upside. The further they go the better this horse is going to be," said Cassidy, who will not attend the Lane's End because he will be performing at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. "Certainly, experience is what he's going to need. I wish his experience and his mind were equal to his talent, and that's what he's going to get. Gary's a great conditioner of a horse, and I have tremendous confidence he can get the horse ready."

Mayan King completed his preparations for the Lane's End on Friday at Aqueduct by working six furlongs in 1:15.06. Contessa caught Mayan King galloping out a mile in 1:41 and 1 1/8 miles in 1:53.

"I told David today, win, lose, or draw, this [horse] is ready to run a mile and an eighth," Contessa said. "If he gets beat by a better horse, so be it. He is ready to go to Kentucky and run his 'A' race."