02/27/2003 1:00AM

Toccet off Derby trail but eyeing Preakness


ARCADIA, Calif. - Owner Dan Borislow finally made official on Thursday what had seemed apparent for several weeks: Toccet will not run in this year's Kentucky Derby, Borislow said, because time was simply running out for a colt who has yet to have a timed workout this year.

Toccet has not raced since his victory in the Hollywood Futurity on Dec. 21. He has been suffering from bone remodeling, which often afflicts 3-year-olds going through growth spurts. Because of that, Toccet missed significant training time this winter, and he only recently has returned to the track at Laurel Race Course in Maryland. Recent poor weather and a minor foot bruise contributed to further delays in Toccet's training in the past week.

Toccet is the second high-profile colt to be declared from the Kentucky Derby, joining Vindication, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Vindication had been considered the favorite for the Derby until his trainer, Bob Baffert, said earlier this month that a suspensory injury would keep the colt out of the Triple Crown races. Vindication and Toccet finished one-two in Eclipse voting for top 2-year-old colt of 2002.

Now, Borislow said, Toccet will be aimed for a comeback in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 26, and then the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course on May 17.

"We're confident about that schedule," Borislow said from his home in Palm Beach, Fla. "I've been through the Derby before," he added, referring to running Talk Is Money in 2001. "I thought we were compromising his chances of being 3-year-old champion by trying to make the Derby.

"It's hard, because I've never had a horse this good, but it's the right thing to do for the horse and for the fans. It's unfortunate, because this is a wide-open Kentucky Derby. But we didn't want to change his training schedule. Our horses usually get one day a week off, and we

didn't want to change that. There are plenty of other races this year. Our goal now is to make him Horse of the Year this year."

Toccet, trained by John Scanlan, won six times in eight starts last year. In addition to the Hollywood Futurity, he also won the Champagne Stakes, Remsen Stakes, and Laurel Futurity.

Toccet was 12-1 in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, trailing only 11-1 Badge of Silver among individual entrants.