03/27/2003 12:00AM

Trust N Luck on Preakness path?


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trust N Luck's easy victory in the Grade 1 Fountain of Youth Stakes and second-place finish behind Empire Maker in the Grade 1 Florida Derby have him firmly entrenched as one of the leading Kentucky Derby candidates in the country. But after conferring with owner E. Paul Robsham Thursday, trainer Ralph Ziadie said the Derby is now one of two options they are considering for the colt.

"We are leaving the Derby open as an option but we're also thinking about the possibility of running him in the Lexington Stakes and then waiting for the Preakness," Ziadie said. "Right now, the owner is having some second thoughts about the Derby, although he is leaving the ultimate decision of where to run up to me."

Ziadie, who returned to the barn for the first time Thursday following a brief vacation in England, said Trust N Luck missed several days of training while being treated for a cough that developed after the colt finished a well-beaten second behind Empire Maker as the even-money favorite in the Florida Derby.

"We had no excuse for his effort in the Florida Derby," Ziadie said. "We scoped him after the race and he showed no blood or mucus. But he backed off his food and was coughing a little in the days after the race, and our thinking is that perhaps he was coming down with a little infection. So we treated him accordingly. As a result he missed a few days of training, but he'll start back galloping [Friday]. We've still got a long way to go before the Lexington or the Kentucky Derby, so missing those few days will not affect him."

Ziadie said he would wait until Trust N Luck is back training on a regular basis before scheduling a work or making a final decision on where and when he'll run next.

"A lot of horses are getting hurt and falling by the wayside for the Kentucky Derby and if we see the field for the Derby is going to be short we'll probably lean more in that direction," Ziadie said. "But I'll wait until we get a little closer before making a final decision."

Unbridels King awaits Aventura

Unbridels King would have been among the favorites if he started in Sunday's $75,000 Caltech Handicap on turf. Instead trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. will skip the race to await a potentially more lucrative payday in the $250,000 Aventura Stakes next weekend.

Unbridels King closed fast to finish fourth in the Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes on turf Feb. 21. He was an impressive winner of a second-level allowance race that was switched from grass to the main course three weeks later, a performance that prompted Plesa's decision to try the Aventura.

"He's an improving horse coming off a big race on the dirt and the Aventura gives us an extra week between races," Plesa said. "Although the main idea of running him in the Aventura is seeing where we stand with him at this point of the season, we're not thinking Kentucky Derby or anything like that. But a big effort might give us some nice options later this spring. If not we can always go back to the grass."

Best of the Rest to Skip Away

Plesa said his handicap star Best of the Rest, who won the richest race of the meet, the $1 million Sunshine Classic, came out of his disappointing effort in the New Orleans Handicap in good shape. He will now be pointed to the Skip Away Handicap here April 20.

"He came out of the race perfectly and worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 here earlier this week," Plesa said. "The Fair Grounds has historically been a track that has a way of affecting a horse the first time over it. That was one of the worst performances of his career, so I guess we'll just blame it on the track."

Plesa has had a busy week, stocking his barn with some new and expensive stock of all ages, including the 4-year-old Lord Abounding, whom he claimed last Saturday for a record $150,000 for the Bridle Path Racing Stable.

One of the reasons Plesa claimed Lord Abounding was that he was impressed with the horse's improving numbers on the Ragozin sheets.

There were also several other reasons. "He runs successfully from five furlongs to a mile, he's only 4 years old, and there's a lot of money around down here during the course of the year for a Florida-bred," Plesa said.

Lord Abounding earned Beyer Speed Figures of 108 and 112 for his last two victories.

"I'll nominate him for the Artax Handicap [April 5] but will probably pass and give him a little more time," Plesa said.

Plesa also said he bought 10 juveniles at recent sales.

"I got the one I really wanted, a Montbrook, for $250,000 for the partnership of the Trilogy Stable and Bea Oxenberg," Plesa said. "I also privately purchased a Silver Charm for Jaime Carrion that was originally bought for $360,000 but turned back after the sale."