04/30/2005 12:00AM

Is there room for one more?

Email
Horsephotos
Don't Get Mad could return on short rest in the Kentucky Derby following his easy victory in the Derby Trial.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Steady showers that forced postponement of key Kentucky Derby workouts in the morning gave way to overcast skies in the afternoon on Saturday at Churchill Downs, as the historic track ushered in its 2005 season with a that may produce a Derby candidate in Don't Get Mad, who scored an electrifying victory.

The Derby Trial is in danger of being accused of false advertising, since the race has become an anachronism in an era when horses get far more time between races. But Don't Get Mad's seven-length victory in the one-mile race left owner B. Wayne Hughes contemplating running the colt back in a week, provided he can get both Don't Get Mad and Greeley's Galaxy in the race.

As of now, there are 21 horses in line for the Derby. Greeley's Galaxy would be the first excluded if all 21 enter. If that happened, Hughes likely would have Don't Get Mad pulled from the entries, to let Greeley's Galaxy in. But if another horse drops out between now and entry time on Wednesday, and both colts could run, Hughes indicated he would be inclined to run both.

"Let's keep positive thoughts," he said.

Don't Get Mad ($7) was last in the seven-horse field early, was caught in traffic when beginning to gain ground on the turn, then closed furiously under jockey Gary Stevens to win going away. Gallardo was second, three-quarters of a length in front of Vicarage, the 2-1 favorite.

Stevens is committed to ride Noble Causeway in the Kentucky Derby. If Don't Get Mad runs, Tyler Baze would ride.

Don't Get Mad completed one mile on the fast main track in 1:36.16. The victory, worth $70,122 from a gross purse of $113,100, was his third in six starts. All three victories have come at Churchill Downs.

"He really likes it here, and one good thing is that the big dance is here," said Ron Ellis, who trains Don't Get Mad. "I'm glad this horse validated what I thought of him."

Don't Get Mad had finished sixth in the Santa Anita Derby in his last start. He had been treated with Lasix for his last two starts, but Ellis chose to race Don't Get Mad without Lasix on Saturday.

Showers that lasted most of Friday night had left the main track in sloppy condition Saturday morning, and caused the trainers of several Derby runners to alter plans for their runners. Most notably, Nick Zito, who had planned on working Bellamy Road, the Derby favorite, as well as High Fly and Noble Causeway, the one-two finishers in the Florida Derby, decided to postpone those three works. Instead, all three had routine gallops. They were scheduled to work on Sunday.

"The main track was not the best it could be," Zito said.

Bobby Frankel, the trainer of High Limit, the Blue Grass Stakes runner-up, sent his colt out for an easy jog, rather than a more strenuous gallop.

"It depends on where you're at," Frankel said. "Today I'm jogging most everything as opposed to galloping. I've found out over the years that when you're training on off tracks, they get you eventually. You get foot problems and lots of other stuff. You get bowed tendons if they slip, or sometimes they get to the bottom of the track and you get condylar fractures. That's why I worked him on Thursday, trying to beat this."

But whereas Frankel and Zito opted for caution, trainers such as Bob Baffert and Tim Ritchey proceeded with business as usual.

Baffert, a three-time Derby winner, had Sort It Out, the Lexington Stakes runner-up, go out for a gallop, as scheduled.

"I don't adjust my training for the weather," Baffert said. "The only thing I do is spend more time in the office."

Ritchey sent Afleet Alex out for his usual two-a-day training session, which totaled five miles of jogging and galloping.

The only Derby contender who worked on Saturday was Wilko, who has been training at Hollywood Park. Wilko, who is seeking to become the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to capture the Derby, completed five furlongs in 59.80 seconds with jockey Corey Nakatani while working with the stakes-class sprinter Pt's Grey Eagle.

Shortly after the two broke off near the five-furlong pole, trainer Craig Dollase leaned out of the clockers' stand adjacent to the backstretch and yelled to the riders, "Pick it up, pick it up."

Pt's Grey Eagle started two lengths in front of Wilko, who gained ground quickly and drew within a length of Pt's Grey Eagle by the end of the backstretch. Wilko moved alongside Pt's Grey Eagle on the turn, took the lead before the eighth pole, and quickened rapidly.

Dollase clocked split times of 25.91 seconds, 37.48, 48.78, and 59.84 seconds, meaning Wilko ran the last quarter-mile in a blistering 22.36 seconds. Dollase timed Wilko galloping out six furlongs in 1:11.68.

"He really picked it up that last eighth," Dollase said.

Wilko was scheduled to fly from California to Kentucky on Sunday, six days before the Derby.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and David Grening