04/15/2004 12:00AM

Water Cannon to get tested


Water Cannon goes for his fifth straight win - all accomplished since trainer Linda Albert added blinkers - and a berth in next month's Preakness Stakes in Saturday's $100,000 at Pimlico.

Despite his accomplishments, Water Cannon probably won't be favored and isn't even close to the horse with the best last-race Beyer Speed Figure.

To keep alive his bid to run with the best 3-year-olds in the nation in the May 15 Preakness, Water Cannon must cope with Paddington, a Michael Dickinson-trained colt who was a solid second behind Kentucky Derby prospect Read the Footnotes last fall, and the filly Pawyne Princess, whose Beyer Figure of 100 in a first-level allowance route last month is by far the highest in the eight-horse field.

Based on his credentials from last year, Paddington is the probable favorite. After winning a minor stakes at Delaware Park in his third career start, Paddington finished fourth behind Birdstone in the Grade 1 Champagne and second behind Read the Footnotes in the Grade 3 Nashua, both in New York.

Paddington has been idle since November, but Dickinson has given him plenty of long, slow works, including a mile breeze, in preparation for his 3-year-old debut.

Pawyne Princess steps up to test males for owner Mike Gill and trainer Jerry Robb after crushing five fillies by 13 lengths on March 31. That 100 Beyer may not be a fluke, because she earned a 99 winning her maiden in February.

In contrast, Water Cannon's two stakes wins, in the Miracle Wood and Private Terms stakes at Laurel Park, were worth modest Beyer Figures of 79 and 78.

Albert said she believes Water Cannon will adapt well to the 1 1/8 miles of the Tesio in his attempt to follow in the footsteps of such Maryland-based horses as Oliver's Twist and Magic Weisner. Both those horses used the Tesio as a stepping-stone to finish second in the Preakness.

"We know it is his toughest test, but we couldn't be going into the race any better," said Albert, who put Water Cannon through a half-mile workout in a bullet 47.40 seconds at Bowie last week. "The extra distance is helping him. He has never had a bad race going long and is really maturing."

Water Cannon will have a new rider, Ryan Fogelsonger, because his regular jockey, Ramon Dominguez, will be at Keeneland to ride Dashboard Drummer in the Lexington Stakes. Water Cannon also must overcome post 8.

"Ryan was supposed to ride in the Miracle Wood, but he was sick that day," Albert said. "I don't like the outside post, it always complicates things. But he has the kind of speed where he can sit where he needs to, and Ryan knows how to save ground, so they'll be able to work their way inside."

The co-feature on the card is the $150,000 Jim McKay Breeders' Cup, a nine-furlong race for older horses.

The prime contenders are The Lady's Groom, who set the pace until the final furlong in the Grade 2, 1 1/4-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap earlier this month; Unforgettable Max, runner-up in the seven-furlong General George in February; and Jorgie Stover and Your Bluffing, who were separated by a nose at the wire in a nine-furlong stakes last month at Laurel.