04/15/2004 12:00AM

Ten Most Wanted looks for the cure


CHICAGO - Few come to gritty Cicero, Ill., looking to heal.

The 4-year-old colt Ten Most Wanted arrived Wednesday, in from glamorous Hollywood Park. There's a race for him Saturday at the National Jockey Club at Hawthorne meet, the Grade 3, $250,000 National Jockey Club Handicap. Besides Ten Most Wanted, five horses were entered; Ten Most Wanted is supposed to beat them handily, and he will be heavily favored to do so.

More is at stake.

"I still think he'll be one of the best horses in the country," said Ten Most Wanted's trainer, Wally Dollase.

But when?

Ten Most Wanted has all the tools. By Deputy Commander, whom Dollase also trained, Ten Most Wanted turns heads with his long, powerful frame. He has never sprinted, and would be totally unsuited to it, but Ten Most Wanted's cruising speed is high enough, he has a long, rhythmic stride, and he can run all day.

Yes, that was him beating Peace Rules by more than four lengths in the Grade 1 Travers last summer.

His misses, too, have been striking, and they came while everyone watched: A disappointing ninth in the Kentucky Derby, an eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic. On Feb. 29, in the New Orleans Handicap, Ten Most Wanted was supposed to kick off a breakout 4-year-old season. He finished a distant fifth.

Each time, there has been trouble - real trouble. Ten Most Wanted threw out his back in the Derby. He was slaughtered on the first turn - in almost exactly the same spot - in the Breeders' Cup and in New Orleans. Some wanted to see Ten Most Wanted show more spark after bad luck struck, but maybe he couldn't.

"He's such a long-striding horse," said Dollase, one of 10 people who own a piece of the horse. Paul Reddam has the biggest share: 25 percent. "When he has bad luck, he's kind of in stuck mode. He's kind of a macho guy. Those are some of the kinds that don't put out if something happens."

Ten Most Wanted has trained with verve since his latest run-in with disaster. At Hawthorne last spring, he crushed a decent edition of the Illinois Derby.

"If he's not 100 percent, we can beat him," said Walter Bindner, who trains Colonial Colony, one of Ten Most Wanted's main rivals. "But his best races outshine ours."

They outshine most, but fans haven't gotten to see one since late last summer. Ten Most Wanted's last two have produced only bruises - to his body and reputation. Dollase's plan is to move on to the Grade 1 Pimlico Special, another chance to climb back to the top.

First, a get-well card from Cicero.