03/24/2003 12:00AM

Wood will tell if Hero is Derby material


FLORENCE, Ky. - The full impact of the Lane's End Stakes on the Kentucky Derby picture probably won't be clear for a few more weeks. The Lane's End winner, New York Hero, will face Derby favorite Empire Maker in the April 12 Wood Memorial, and the beaten odds-on favorite, Lion Tamer, tentatively remains under Derby consideration while trainer Todd Pletcher shops for what would be a final prep.

New York Hero, named for those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, returned to Belmont Park on Sunday, less than 24 hours after narrowly holding off Eugene's Third Son to win the Lane's End. Owner Ernie Paragallo and trainer Jennifer Pedersen have deep New York roots and are eager to see whether New York Hero can earn a return trip to Kentucky by running well in the Wood at Aqueduct.

Meanwhile, Pletcher said he was not altogether discouraged by Lion Tamer, who finished fourth after drawing to within several lengths of the leaders midway through the 1 1/8-mile Lane's End. Making his first start around two turns, Lion Tamer broke cleanly from the far outside post but fell about eight or 10 lengths behind as the field went into the first turn.

Pletcher said he would evaluate how the final round of preps for the May 3 Derby was shaping up before deciding what would be next for Lion Tamer.

The two other logical Derby prospects from the Lane's End probably have dropped from the Derby trail. Trainer Pat Byrne said he was dubious about how Eugene's Third Son would handle top-class competition at 1 1/8 miles or longer, while trainer Greg Foley said third-place finisher Champali had no viable excuse and most likely would be pointed to less demanding spots.

The winners of the two stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday's undercard probably will run next at Keeneland. Private Gold, winner of the Rushaway for Byrne, and Quick Draw, winner of the Hansel, both will be considered for the April 19 Coolmore Lexington Stakes, although the connections of both colts said they are not necessarily intent on running back in the Derby.

Quick Draw, making just his fourth career start and his first since exiting the maiden ranks, may be the best remaining Derby hopeful for D. Wayne Lukas, who has saddled at least one starter in 21 of the last 22 Derbies.

Most business numbers were good

Handle from all sources on the 12-race Saturday card at Turfway was $6,899,611, up about 3 percent from the corresponding date last year. Turfway's record all-sources handle of $12,925,192 was set on the day the Jim Beam Stakes, the forerunner of the Lane's End, was run in 1997.

Ontrack handle was $1,632,753, down more than $300,000 from last year. Ontrack attendance of 20,126 exceeded the 19,076 from last year but may have included an undetermined number of "spinners" willing to pay multiple admissions to receive a Steve Cauthen bobblehead doll with each $10 admission.

Day of bad luck for Bradley

Trainer William "Buff" Bradley had a forgettable Lane's End day. Bradley saddled Stormy Port as one of the favorites for the third race, then watched in horror as the 4-year-old filly suffered irreparable injuries after clipping heels and falling late in the far turn. Stormy Port was euthanized.

Three races later, Bradley's stable star, Timeless Love, grabbed the lead in deep stretch in the $50,000 Queen Stakes, only to be nipped in the final jump by Belle Artiste. Exiting the unsaddling area, Bradley could only shake his head sadly when approached by a friend.

* Among the notables in attendance Saturday were NTRA commissioner Tim Smith, Kentucky Racing Commission chairman Frank Shoop, and longtime horse owner Bruce Lunsford, who is running for governor of Kentucky.