04/17/2003 12:00AM

Time has come to make good


LEXINGTON, Ky. - As a stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby, Saturday's $325,000 Lexington for 3-year-olds is invariably an interesting race. But Derby interest should be unusually high this weekend, because Ministers Wild Cat is here and apparently ready to exchange some promises for some realizations.

When they talk about potential, Ministers Wild Cat is the kind of horse they have in mind. An attractive bay son of Deputy Minister, he starts with a golden pedigree. His dam, Hollywood Wildcat, won a number of important features, including the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Hollywood Wildcat is also the dam of War Chant, another Breeders' Cup winner with a good measure of class.

Lightly raced at 2, Ministers Wild Cat got off in smart form this season for his Hall of Fame trainer, Neil Drysdale. His campaign faltered briefly when he finished second in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields, and his people were preparing him to make amends in the Santa Anita Derby. The day before the race, he rolled in his stall, lashed out with his left hind leg and hit a stanchion, bending the plate. The shoe was removed, the foot was tubbed, and he missed only two days of training.

Ministers Wild Cat had a good work of seven furlongs last week, was flown to Keeneland on Tuesday, and is ready to give a good account, according to Drysdale, who won the Kentucky Derby of 2000 with Fusaichi Pegasus.

"This is a talented colt," Drysdale said the other day. "He wasn't as focused as he should have been in his first few races, so we're going to try blinkers in the Lexington. Bad weather forced us to miss a work before our arrival here, but it shouldn't be a problem. He has been coming on strong in recent weeks, and a good effort in the Lexington may be all he needs."

Three-year-olds have a period of development in the spring, but they don't all progress at the same rate and at the same time. Lucky Debonair, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1965, came to hand remarkably fast in the weeks before the race, and his timing was perfect. Quadrangle was a bit slower to develop. He finished fifth in the Derby of 1964 but was right shortly after and won the Belmont. The Lexington should tell us if Ministers Wild Cat can post a meaningful threat when they run for the roses on May 3.

A well-read city

There are two remarkable libraries in Lexington, and racing has played a significant role in both cases. The University of Kentucky has one of the outstanding libraries to be found on any college campus, and it is housed in a spectacular building, the funding of which was launched by a contribution of $5 million by William T. Young Jr. of Overbrook Farm.

Keeneland has the finest library to be found at any racetrack in the world, and many of racing's professionals, visiting for the spring meeting, have dropped by the library's magnificent new home on the grounds for an inspection. They are unanimously impressed with the content, the building, and the dedication of the staff.

If you are at Keeneland at any time, visit the library and marvel at its scope. It is not to be missed.