08/25/2004 11:00PM

Toscano gives nod to 'Wire'

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MIAMI - Wire Bound and Cervelo figure to command most of the attention in a field of 10 3-year-olds set to go 1 1/16 miles on the turf in Saturday's $75,000 Needles Stakes at Calder. Nobody knows the two favorites better than jockey Paul Toscano, who has ridden both horses to stakes victories during the current meet.

Toscano, who is gradually working his way up the jockey standings in his first full season at Calder, agonized over the decision before opting to ride Wire Bound in the Needles.

"It was really hard to choose between the two mounts, because both horses really impressed me, and both can win this race," said Toscano.

Toscano first teamed up with Wire Bound for his turf debut on April 26, the two combining for one of the meet's biggest upsets, a half-length victory over Gin Rummy Champ at 52-1. Four weeks later, Wire Bound returned with a 2 3/4-length win over the same rival and seven others in the Simply Majestic, although without Toscano, who was in New York to ride Sinister G in the Peter Pan.

Toscano was back aboard Wire Bound for Delaware Park's Grade 3 Kent Breeders' Cup Stakes on June 26. They finished fifth behind Timo and Icy Atlantic over a soft grass course.

"He didn't dislike the softer course, but I wouldn't say it was his favorite surface, either," Toscano explained.

Trainer Manny Criollo gave Wire Bound a brief freshening after the Kent, but the two-month layoff does not concern Toscano in the least.

"He's doing excellent," said Toscano, who rode Wire Bound for his most recent work.

Toscano is 2 for 2 since joining forces with Cervelo. Toscano guided Cervelo to an easy entry-level allowance victory on dirt and a 1 1/2-length victory over the hard-luck Gin Rummy Champ in the Jackie Wackie Stakes on turf. Trainer James Hatchett has chosen Julio Garcia to replace Toscano.

Gin Rummy Champ has finished second or better in seven of nine starts this year, with his lone stakes victory coming in the five-furlong Naked Greed on June 18. He figures once again to force the early running.