05/11/2004 12:00AM

Two new shooters bred for distance


LAS VEGAS - While Smarty Jones and Lion Heart renew their rivalry in the Preakness Stakes this Saturday, two new and highly regarded players add intrigue to the middle jewel of the Triple Crown - that is, if the track is fast.

Rock Hard Ten (by Kris S.) and Eddington (Unbridled) were excluded from the Kentucky Derby because they did not have enough earnings in graded stakes. But it may have been a blessing in disguise for both colts.

Rock Hard Ten went into the Santa Anita Derby off impressive victories in only a maiden and an allowance race, and his game effort against much more seasoned foes underscored his raw talent. He finished second behind Castledale, but was disqualified and placed third for interfering with Imperialism. Rushing such a promising colt into the hectic Derby off only three starts - running in an inordinately large field and over a sealed, sloppy track - might have proved disastrous. While the Preakness will be no less daunting, Rock Hard Ten has now been given an extra two weeks without a tough battle in Louisville and his chances are significantly better in Baltimore.

Rock Hard Ten is truly the wild card in this year's field and has the most potential to upset Smarty Jones. He has similar credentials to Red Bullet (Unbridled), who upset Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus in the 2000 Preakness with only four starts under his belt. After winning a maiden and an allowance, Red Bullet won the Gotham Stakes over a fast-finishing Aptitude (who finished a clear second in the Derby) and then finished second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial Stakes.

Fusaichi Pegasus was a colt of the highest quality whose unsoundness caused his early retirement and compromised his chances of being labeled a superstar. If Red Bullet could upset Fusaichi Pegasus in the Preakness, then Rock Hard Ten can certainly upset Smarty Jones.

Female family of Silver Spoon

Rock Hard Ten is by the late Kris S., who is also the sire of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Action This Day, and Tiger Hunt. Two other promising and late-blooming sons of Kris S. - Royal Assault, who is being targeted for the Belmont Stakes by Nick Zito, and Philanthropist, trained by Shug McGaughey - may have something to say later this year.

In addition to Kris S., who supplies the stamina in his pedigree, Rock Hard Ten gets a substantial amount of class from his storied C.V. Whitney female family. His dam, Tersa, was 1988 2-year-old filly champion in France. She defeated males in the Group 1 Prix Morny. Tersa (Mr. Prospector) is also a half-sister to 1982 Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol.

Rock Hard Ten's fifth dam is C.V. Whitney's foundation mare, Silver Fog, a foal of 1944 who produced four stakes winners, including 1959 3-year-old filly champion Silver Spoon, who defeated males in the Santa Anita Derby. Silver Fog's other notable runners were The Searcher, who won the Hollywood Premiere and Albany handicaps; Silver Bright, winner of the Arlington-Washington Lassie and dam of State Dinner; and Spinaway Stakes winner Silver True, the dam of Silver Buck.

While he is an imposing physical specimen who stands at more than 17 hands, Rock Hard Ten is unusually nimble for a colt of his size. His untapped talent, natural speed, and agility offset his inexperience.

Eddington bred to run all day

Eddington is by Unbridled out of a Chief's Crown mare, and is bred to run two miles. The late Unbridled is already the sire of a Derby winner (Grindstone), a Preakness winner (Red Bullet), and a Belmont winner (Empire Maker). Like most offspring by Unbridled, Eddington is bred to be better as he matures during his 3-year-old season and could be set for a career best.

Both Eddington's sire and dam have the Rasmussen Factor or RF, as they are inbred to superior females within five generations through different individuals. Unbridled is inbred to Aspidistra, the dam of 1968 Horse of the Year Dr. Fager (Rough 'n Tumble), considered to be among the fastest horses of all time, and of 1969 and 1970 champion sprinter Ta Wee (Intentionally). Bred to Buckpasser, Aspidistra produced the unraced Magic, Unbridled's fourth dam.

Eddington's dam, Fashion Star, is inbred to Somethingroyal. Long before she produced Secretariat at the age of 18 in 1970, Somethingroyal produced three other stakes winners of the highest order - Sir Gaylord, the favorite for the 1962 Kentucky Derby who was injured in a workout on the morning before the race; Syrian Sea, who had the misfortune of being in the same crop as 1967 champion 2-year-old filly Queen of the Stage; and First Family, who finished third, beaten a neck and one length by Hail to All and Tom Rolfe in the 1965 Belmont Stakes.

Smarty Jones, Lion Heart, The Cliff's Edge and Imperialism are all formidable foes, but the two new faces have every right to steal the show.