03/14/2003 1:00AM

Sky Mesa a definite Derby no-show


Trainer John Ward finally conceded Friday that Sky Mesa would not run in the Kentucky Derby, but "we might be able to make the Belmont" Stakes on June 6 if everything broke right.

Ward, unhappy with the way Sky Mesa was responding to treatment for a bruised right front foot, shipped Sky Mesa on Tuesday to the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington, Ky., where he was examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage. All Bramlage did was confirm the bruise.

"He wasn't responding like I thought he should for a bruise, so to be on the safe side there was a plane heading to Lexington and we got him up there to Larry, who did a complete job on him and diagnosed that he had a bruise on the inside quarter of his right front foot," Ward said. "Everything else checked out 100 percent.''

Ward spoke from Lexington at around 12:30 p.m. Friday as he was about to put Sky Mesa on a van headed back to south Florida. Sky Mesa is stabled at Palm Beach Downs, a training center located about 50 miles north of Gulfstream Park. Ward said Sky Mesa would remain at Palm Beach for a few more weeks before going to Keeneland.

Sky Mesa has been out of training since Feb. 23. A few days after a sharp workout at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 18, Sky Mesa sustained his bruise while "over-galloping" at Palm Beach. Ward said he has no timetable for Sky Mesa's return to training.

"It's one of those things that's day by day - when everything gets right," Ward said. "I wouldn't imagine it'll be too long. We re-diagnosed what the problems is with 100 percent surety. It gives us confidence to proceed, and it also stops the rumor mill from running."

Sky Mesa, owned by John Oxley, went 3 for 3 as a 2-year-old including victories in the Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 2 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, his last start on Oct. 5.