01/30/2003 12:00AM

Team Valor turns to plan B

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Its top 3-year-old, Added Edge, knocked off the Triple Crown trail due to injury, Team Valor Stables hopes to keep its Kentucky Derby dream alive with Colita.

Team Valor purchased a half-interest in Colita following a 3 1/4-length maiden victory at Aqueduct going six furlongs on Jan. 5. Fifteen days later, Colita successfully stretched out to a mile and 70 yards, winning an entry-level allowance race by 1 3/4 lengths. Colita, trained by Carlos Morales, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 94 for the effort.

While originally being pointed to the Whirlaway Stakes here on Feb. 8, Colita was sent to Florida earlier this week where he will be pointed to an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 15 and then possibly the Florida Derby on March 15.

"He's going to take the Captain Bodgit route,'' said Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, which owned Captain Bodgit, who won the 1997 Florida Derby and Wood Memorial winner before losing a heart-breaking head decision to Silver Charm in the Kentucky Derby.

Irwin said he normally doesn't purchase horses coming off a victory on a wet racetrack, such as Colita's Jan. 5 win. But Irwin was impressed with the way the horse came from off the pace to get the victory. Irwin was impressed again when Colita won his two-turn debut from just off the pace.

"He made three moves in the race,'' Irwin said. "He made a move shortly after the gate opened, he made another move to catch up, and then he took off in the stretch.''

Due to the bitter cold in the Northeast, Colita was sent to Florida where he took up residence in trainer John Terranova's barn at the Palm Meadows training facility. Morales will remain Colita's trainer.

Terranova employs an exercise rider named Jorge Abreu, who was the exercise rider for the Morales-trained stakes winner Yankee Victor a few years back.

Irwin said having Colita helps ease the pain of losing Added Edge, who was unbeaten as a 2-year-old before injuring a knee in the Holy Bull Stakes a few weeks ago.

"It takes a lot of the sting out of it,'' Irwin said. "As somebody once said, God closed the door but he opened the window.''

Irwin said Edgar Prado would ride Colita in the Feb. 15 allowance race.

True Direction back to work

The injury-prone True Direction worked three furlongs in 35.95 seconds over Belmont's training track Thursday. It was his first move since winning the Fall Highweight Handicap last November.

True Direction came out of that race with an injury to the splint bone of his right foreleg. Last June, True Direction suffered an injury to the splint bone of his left foreleg.

Javier Castellano was aboard for the workout, the second fastest of 13 at the distance.

"I was asking for 38 [seconds], but the jock felt he was going easy,'' trainer Carlos Morales said.

Morales said he had no race in mind for True Direction, but was hopeful of making the Toboggan Handicap on March 15 or the Carter Handicap on April 12.

Papua headed to Hollie Hughes

Given Papua's breeding, trainer Michael Hushion said he couldn't wait to run the horse a route of ground. As it turns out, Papua's best game is sprinting, something he proved yet again Wednesday winning a third-level allowance race.

The victory was the third straight for the New York-bred Papua against open company and fifth from six starts going six furlongs. Papua, a son of Louis Quatorze out of the Red Ransom mare Bella Ransom, will be pointed to the Hollie Hughes Handicap for statebreds at six furlongs on Feb. 16.

"He just went though a period of growing and got bigger and stronger,'' Hushion said. "He was a little nervous type before; he seems to have settled. Three-quarters has been the secret. We found that out through trial and error. When he was younger, I couldn't wait to run him long.''

Kunz named NYRA chief vet

Celeste Kunz has been named chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, becoming the first woman to hold that position. Kunz replaces Neil Cleary, who has taken a job as a veterinarian for the state.

Kunz, 46, has worked as a vet for NYRA since 1994. Two years later she began regularly working major events such as the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup.

Kunz was credited for playing a key role in saving the life of 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic when he broke his leg during the running of the Belmont Stakes.

Kunz is a 1990 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She has worked as software engineer at The Wall Street Journal and an art director at a medical publishing company.

* Affirmed Success, who made a successful 9-year-old debut winning a Jan. 10 allowance race, worked five furlongs in 1:01.05 Thursday. He is preparing for the General George Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 17.