03/27/2004 12:00AM

Tiger Hunt not quite ready

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Tiger Hunt has been withdrawn from consideration for Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby because it would be too much of a push to make a race of that caliber, said his trainer, Ralph Nicks. The earliest comeback races Tiger Hunt will be considered for are the $75,000 Northern Spur Breeders' Cup at Oaklawn on April 10, or the Grade 2, $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 17.

Nicks said Tiger Hunt would not go in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby, also on April 10, because his stablemate, Shadowland, is to run in that race. Both horses race for Team Valor.

Tiger Hunt has not raced since finishing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in October. He spiked a temperature earlier this month that forced him to miss a workout, and ultimately his scheduled 2004 debut, which was to have been the $200,000 Rebel Stakes here on March 20.

The alternative plan had become the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne.

"He's not ready to ship and run a mile and an eighth in that kind of company," said Nicks, who trains Tiger Hunt for Team Valor. "We want to do what's right by the horse."

By missing the Illinois Derby, Tiger Hunt will be on a tight schedule to make the Kentucky Derby.

* Greta Kuntzweiler has the mount on Pure American, an allowance winner who is to run in the Illinois Derby. The colt will work at Hawthorne on Monday, said his trainer, Grant Forster.