03/22/2004 12:00AM

Weaver keeps Derby on back burner


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - For a young trainer who hails from Louisville and has been out on his own for a short period of time, George Weaver has shown amazing restraint when it comes to the Kentucky Derby.

A year ago, Weaver could have made a case to run Christine's Outlaw in the Derby. Christine's Outlaw was coming off a third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby. Even when it was revealed that Derby favorite Empire Maker was battling a foot injury, Weaver sat it out. He felt the Peter Pan was the ideal spot for Christine's Outlaw, but things went awry in that race and Christine's Outlaw finished last.

"If I had foreseen the future, I would have gone to the Derby with Christine's Outlaw, for the owners to go through the experience and for me to go through the experience," said Weaver, who has experienced the Derby with former bosses Todd Pletcher and D. Wayne Lukas. "I did try to do the right thing by Christine's Outlaw and took aim at the Peter Pan, but things didn't work out."

Weaver has a second opportunity to get Derby fever, but he hasn't caught the bug yet. While he hasn't ruled out a Derby try with Gotham winner Saratoga County, he has hardly reserved a hotel room in Louisville.

Weaver has said all along that he's not sure Saratoga County is a Derby horse. Saratoga County is a son of Valid Expectations, which, as Weaver pointed out after the Gotham, "doesn't scream mile and a quarter."

Weaver planned to ship Saratoga County from Belmont Park to Keeneland on Tuesday, with the idea of running him in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race run April 17. But Weaver will monitor the trio of April 10 Kentucky Derby prep races - the Blue Grass, Arkansas Derby, and Wood Memorial - in case any of the three come up light.

"All the spots I may want to go with him would be feasible," said Weaver, 33, who went out on his own about 18 months ago. "In case any of the Derby stuff materializes, we'll be there in Kentucky close to where it's happening."

Weaver isn't sure Saratoga County is a two-turn horse, but believes the Lexington "is the most logical way to answer that question."

Redskin Warrior headed to Keeneland

Redskin Warrior, who finished fifth as the second choice in the Gotham, was one of 10 Paraneck Stable horses who shipped to Keeneland on Monday. Trainer Jennifer Pedersen said Redskin Warrior could run next in either the Lafayette Stakes there April 4 or the Lexington.

Pedersen said Redskin Warrior had missed some training time because of bad weather leading up to the Gotham, but added she didn't want to make excuses. "The saving grace is he came out good, thank God," Pedersen said. "He may be just a sprinter, I don't know."

Song of the Sword, undefeated in three starts, remained at Pedersen's Aqueduct barn. He is scheduled to run in the Illinois Derby on April 3. According to Pedersen, Song of the Sword will work here Thursday and would ship to Chicago on April 1.

Wood a possibility for Tapit

Tapit, who suffered his first career defeat when sixth in the Florida Derby, is being pointed to the Wood Memorial here April 10, his connections said Monday.

Tapit, who is based at trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Chesapeake, Md., returned to the track Monday morning for the first time since the Florida Derby. Tapit came out of the race with mucus in his lungs as well as an abscess in his left front foot. On Monday, Dickinson said the foot "was only an issue for 12 hours. He's moving super."

Tapit, who won the Grade 3 Laurel Futurity last November, is one of eight horses being considered for the Wood, a race that has produced three of the last four Kentucky Derby winners. Those considered definite starters are Master David, Value Plus, Eddington, The Cliff's Edge, Sinister G, Tapit, and Little Matth Man. Breakaway, the fourth-place finisher in the Louisiana Derby, is possible.

Pick six carryover at $124,697

She Is Raging will be the one to catch in Wednesday's $47,000 feature, an optional claiming race at six furlongs. Wednesday's card features a pick six carryover of $124,697.

She Is Raging, trained by Bruce Levine, had a four-race winning streak snapped March 4, when she got involved in a spirited speed duel and faded to third, 4 3/4 lengths behind Umpateedle. There does not appear to be another speed horse in Wednesday's race, which drew only five horses.

"They want me, they'll have to come get me," said trainer Bruce Levine. "I'll go as far as I can."

Cativa, trained by leading trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., is the one to fear. Cativa has won four of her last five starts, with her lone loss coming by a head to Jester Rahab, another Levine trainee.

Cativa has won her last two starts over the main track and has registered five of her six career victories at six furlongs.

Iron Deputy has another ankle chip

Iron Deputy will be out indefinitely after suffering another chip in his left front ankle after his most recent work, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

Jerkens said Iron Deputy, last year's Brooklyn Handicap winner, will have the chip surgically removed and says he hopes Iron Deputy will return to the track later this summer. A 5-year-old, Iron Deputy had a chip removed last summer, following the Saratoga Breeders' Cup in August.

"In his last work he worked with Multiple Choice, and he didn't work very well," Jerkens said. "We X-rayed him, and he had a little chip."

Iron Deputy has been injury plagued throughout his career. He suffered a minor leg fracture at 2 and had quarter cracks at 3.

Ground Storm may try Excelsior

Ground Storm, who in his last start won the Stymie Handicap for the second time in three years, worked four furlongs in 47.65 seconds over Belmont Park's training track Monday. It equaled the fastest of 48 works at the distance.

Ground Storm could make his next start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap on April 3. The Excelsior is expected to attract 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide.

"He's nominated to it. It's a possibility," said Arthur Tsiamis, assistant to trainer Bill Mott. "He came out of the last race well. Let's see how it shapes up."

* Evening Attire, the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, worked five furlongs in 1:02.28 Monday morning over the training track. He, too, is a candidate for the Excelsior.

* Apprentice jockey Edwin Perez broke a 0-for-29 skid when he guided Callcat ($10.20) to victory in Monday's third race.