03/25/2004 1:00AM

Water Cannon after 4th straight


Water Cannon remained winless after the first six races of his career. Since trainer Linda Albert added blinkers, however, Water Cannon has reeled off three consecutive victories.

So instead of looking like he might be destined to remain a professional maiden, Water Cannon has quickly become one of the leading 3-year-olds in Maryland.

Water Cannon goes for his fourth straight win and second against stakes company in Saturday's $60,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park.

Albert admitted that she got conflicting advice from Water Cannon's exercise riders as to whether blinkers would be all the gray gelding needed to turn the corner.

"I had been hearing from the riders that he didn't need blinkers," Albert said. "Finally, I heard that he needed them, I put them on him, and gee! He's improving a lot and the blinkers really made him focus."

Water Cannon's sire, Waquoit, won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Brooklyn Handicap twice going 1 1/2 miles. So it's not surprising Water Cannon prefers two turns. Albert said she is surprised, however, that Water Cannon didn't need more time to develop.

"He's a Waquoit," Albert said. "He's supposed to be better when he gets older. Who expected him to be a good 3-year-old?"

Water Cannon is one of only two Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds in the six-horse field for the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms. The other is Cryptic Skier, who has finished ahead of Water Cannon two of the three times they have met. The notable exception came Feb. 1, when Water Cannon scored a wire-to-wire victory in a first-level allowance.

Cryptic Skier, who often comes from far off the pace, was beaten nearly 10 lengths that day, but rebounded with a victory on Feb. 19, making up 12 lengths in the last 2 1/2 furlongs of a similar allowance race. Trained by Francis Campitelli, Cryptic Skier has been favored in each of his last four starts.

Acclimate and Eastern Bay are back to try Water Cannon again after competitive efforts in last month's Miracle Wood. Acclimate dueled through fast fractions until weakening in the final furlong. Eastern Bay came from off the pace and briefly gained the lead with a sixteenth of a mile remaining, only to be overtaken by a half-length by Water Cannon.

The remaining two entrants, Mahican and Major Tanner, both come off decisive victories against allowance competition out of state. Mahican beat nine horses going two turns at Charles Town. Major Tanner earned a career-best 72 Beyer at Philadelphia Park.