04/25/2004 11:00PM

Those sitting on bubble can only wait

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jason Orman and Mark Hennig can empathize with Tom Petty. The waiting is the hardest part.

Orman, the trainer of Rock Hard Ten, and Hennig, who trains Eddington, are on the outside looking in at this year's Kentucky Derby. Each wants to run his colt in Saturday's 130th Derby at Churchill Downs, but both could be denied spots because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes races.

As of Monday, 23 horses were pointing for the Derby. Value Plus, however, is not expected to be entered on Wednesday. But if the remaining 22 are entered, two will be excluded, since the Derby field is limited to 20 runners, with graded stakes earnings the tie-breaker.

Both Rock Hard Ten and Eddington stayed on edge for a potential Derby start with sharp recent workouts. Rock Hard Ten sped five furlongs in 59.68 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form, on Monday at Churchill Downs with jockey Craig Perret. Eddington breezed five furlongs in 1:00.06 on Sunday at Belmont Park under jockey Pablo Fragoso.

"We're just waiting to see what happens with the Derby," Orman said. "There's nothing you can do. It might be the best thing for him if he doesn't get in. Down the road, he's going to be a good horse."

Orman said if Rock Hard Ten does not get into the Derby, he will point for the May 15 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

Eddington is booked on a flight from New York to Kentucky on Wednesday. According to Hennig, the plane will not leave until after entries for the Derby close Wednesday morning and Hennig knows whether Eddington has made the cut.

"I'm glad I'm right here and not [at Churchill Downs] caught up in everything," Hennig said at Belmont. "There's nothing I can do but train my horse. We haven't packed any trunks yet. If I had, I would have been packing and unpacking them a few times this week. It's pretty clear-cut: If a horse comes out, we go. If not, we don't."

Asked if he would be disappointed if Eddington did not get in, Hennig said, "I'll only be disappointed if someone enters a horse to keep a horse out."

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson