12/16/2003 12:00AM

Quick off the mark

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Benoit & Associates
Trainer Patrick Biancone says if Lion Heart (above) dominates the Hollywood Futurity, he deserves Eclipse consideration.

ARCADIA, Calif. - With his racy chestnut color and a generous splash of white on his left rear ankle, Lion Heart is the kind of a colt who looks fast just standing still. He is not an imposing physical presence, but when he turns on the jets, he is startlingly fast, an equine version of San Diego Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Lion Heart was gone in not much more than 60 seconds in his debut, came back to beat stakes company in his second start, and on Saturday shoots for the hat trick in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity. A victory might impress those Eclipse Award voters who believe the 2-year-old colt division does not have a definitive champion.

His trainer, Patrick Biancone, said Lion Heart is not running in the Futurity with the idea of winning a championship. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"If he gives a display like he did last time," Biancone said Tuesday morning at his Santa Anita barn, referring to Lion Heart's six-length victory in the Hollywood Prevue on Nov. 15, "I think he deserves it. If not, he does not deserve it. Simple as that. I am not pushing him to achieve that. We are just trying to go on with him."

Lion Heart arrived in Biancone's barn with great expectations. He had worked so strongly at a 2-year-old in training sale earlier this year that Lion Heart was purchased for $1.4 million, a premium price for a son of Tale of the Cat. Because of Lion Heart's size, Biancone elected to give the colt a bit more time to mature.

Lion Heart made his debut on Oct. 24 at Santa Anita, the day before the Breeders' Cup. An erratic work schedule tempered Biancone's enthusiasm that day, but Lion Heart won by one length going six furlongs.

"Sometimes he was brilliant, sometimes not brilliant," Biancone said. "He can be average in the morning, but he is completely different in the afternoon. When he races, or goes to the paddock, he is in control of the place."

That maturity was on display in the seven-furlong Prevue, which Lion Heart won by six lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

Now, after two sprint wins, Lion Heart will try to stretch his speed to 1 1/16 miles. "Until they try two turns you never know," Biancone said. "It is a different style of racing. But I am not going to complain about having a fast horse."