03/26/2005 1:00AM

Scott's youngsters swift runners


OLDSMAR, Fla. - When Joan Scott came to Tampa Bay Downs she had a stable of mostly maidens with promising bloodlines but inconsistent past performances.

When Scott heads back to Kentucky later this spring she will take a number of recent winners, plus a 3-year-old who finished second in a Grade 3 stakes, and a co-holder of a track record.

Scott sent out Forever Wild to take on Sun King in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby, and he ran the race of his young career at 27-1. Forever Wild challenged the heavy favorite from the outside leaving the turn, then continued well through the stretch to be second-best to Sun King, the Nick Zito-trained runner who is one of the leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby.

The Tampa Bay Derby was only the fifth career start for Forever Wild, a Dixiana Stable homebred. Scott said that Forever Wild would get a bit of a break before making his next start.

"He ran a tremendous race, and everyone is very proud of him, but running races like that take a lot out of a young horse and we are going to give him a little time to freshen up," Scott said. "He's had five races since late December so it's time to give him a little vacation. We're going to nominate to several stakes, including the Tesio in Maryland, the Unbridled Stakes at Calder, and the Lexington at Keeneland. We're not looking to take on any monsters next time, so we'll pick our spots."

Scott, who will be based at The Thoroughbred Center outside of Lexington, Ky., before moving some of her stable to Churchill after Derby week, will also be looking for spots for We Can Do, a Scatmandu filly who was clocked in 57.26 seconds for five furlongs on the main track while beating maidens by 7 1/4 lengths on last Tuesday. The time equaled the track record of 57 1/5 set by Arion Fair in 1982 and barely surpassed that of co-record holder Mr. Buffum, who ran the distance in 57.28 seconds in 2002.

While the track was particularly fast when We Can Do ran, it was still quite a performance for a horse winning its first race.

"We'll look for an allowance race for her next and if she comes back and runs well in that one then we'll shop for some stakes," Scott said.

Scott has won 15 races from 45 starters at the meet.

Battle for leading rider continues

Jesus Castanon, who rode We Can Do, continues to hang tough in his battle with Terry Houghton for leading rider. Houghton had a three-win advantage, 73-70, through Friday's program, but Castanon, who won three races on Tampa Bay Derby day, refuses to yield and it looks likely the duel will go down to the final days of the meeting, just as it did last season.

New stakes added

The continued upswing in business that included a record-breaking all-sources handle, one-race handle, and track attendance on Tampa Bay Derby Day has prompted management to add one stakes to the schedule while increasing the purse for another.

The Chris Thomas Stakes at nine furlongs on the turf, formerly a $60,000 feature, will have its purse raised to $75,000. A new stakes, the $75,000 Lightning for filly and mares over five furlongs, will be added to the final Saturday program on May 7.