02/15/2006 12:00AM

Achilles of Troy will now stay put

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Ernie Paragallo says he feared Achilles of Troy would not fully adapt to Florida before the Fountain of Youth.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Owner Ernie Paragallo, as he is wont to do, has altered plans with his top 3-year-old prospects Achilles of Troy and Scanlon's Song.

Achilles of Troy, convincing winner of the Count Fleet and Whirlaway stakes, will not ship to Florida as originally planned but instead will stay in New York and be pointed to the Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham here on March 18. After that, he would presumably target the Wood Memorial, run on Aqueduct's main track on April 8.

Scanlon's Song, an impressive maiden winner on Jan. 28, will not ship to Oaklawn Park for Monday's Southwest Stakes, but will now be considered for the $100,000 John Battaglia on March 4 and then the Grade 2, $500,000 Lane's End Stakes on March 25. Both of those races are at Turfway Park in Kentucky. Paragallo said he is also holding out hope that the racing office here could fill an allowance for Scanlon's Song soon as either a prep for or in lieu of the Battaglia.

Paragallo said Wednesday that he changed his mind about shipping Achilles of Troy to Florida because he didn't think there was enough time for Achilles of Troy to acclimate properly to the south Florida weather and run in the Fountain of Youth on March 4.

"I've been told you need three to four weeks to acclimate or you fly in the day before," Paragallo said. "With Artax" - who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint for Paragallo at Gulfstream in 1999 - "I shipped in the day before. I'm not able to get a flight this time."

In years past, the Gotham was run as a one-turn mile. With the decision made to extend the inner-track meet until the end of March, however, the Gotham will be run around two turns at 1 1/16 miles, the same conditions as the Whirlaway. There is only one negative: Achilles of Troy is unlikely to meet anything tougher than he already has beaten.

"Hopefully, he'll just take a step forward," Paragallo said. "And hopefully somebody sends something to run against him."

Paragallo said Achilles of Troy returned to the track on Wednesday, when he jogged and galloped 1 1/2 miles over the inner track.

"Doesn't look like he missed a beat," Paragallo said. "The next morning he was tearing the barn down."

Achilles of Troy has won his last three races and has earned Beyer Speed Figures of 105 and 103, in the Count Fleet and Whirlaway.

Paragallo and trainer Jennifer Pedersen have both said they feel Scanlon's Song is every bit as talented as Achilles of Troy. Scanlon's Song has only run once, however, and he needs experience. Scanlon's Song missed several days of training since his last work because of a snowstorm that left the track a mess for two mornings.

"He needs experience," Paragallo said. "He's run a quarter of a mile his entire life."

Araya back with Marco's Tale

During his first incarnation as a horse trainer, Rene Araya had some success winning stakes with horses he claimed for modest prices. Now, in his second life as a horse trainer, Araya hopes he is on the same path with the 3-year-old Marco's Tale.

Araya and owner Paul Pompa claimed Marco's Tale for $50,000 last November. Last Saturday, in his third start for his new connections, Marco's Tale won his maiden by nine lengths, running 1 1/8 miles over the inner track. He covered the distance in 1:52.32 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 82. Before that, Marco's Tale ran second to Scanlon's Song.

Araya says Marco's Tale is certainly the best of the eight horses he trains, and may be the best horse he has ever trained in his 21-year career.

"I know this horse is a more serious horse than any other horse I won a stakes with," said Araya, who won stakes with former claimers Mckaymackenna, Nappelon, and T Storm. "I want to carry him as far as I can."

Araya quit training in January 2004 because of a lack of business. He became a jockey agent for riders Catalino Martinez and Jose Espinoza. Araya, who had trained for 19 years before getting out, returned to training in 2005, but only went 3 for 49 last year.

Because of Marco's Tale's propensity to run a distance of ground, Araya said he doesn't think it is far-fetched that Marco's Tale could run in the Kentucky Derby.

"I think he's good enough to be in the race," said Araya, whose six wins this year are more than his previous two-year totals combined.

Pompa, who used Araya when he first got in the game in 2000, has his sights set a little lower than the Derby. Pompa said he would like to run Marco's Tale in a nine-furlong allowance race in March, then perhaps take a shot at the Wood Memorial in April.

"The thing is, you can't get too high," said Pompa, a chief executive of a truck distribution company in Brooklyn. "I've had calls in the morning - this one broke his leg on the track or this one got hurt. If you don't expect anything, you'll never be disappointed. You just go along. We hope they come out of the races sound and we move along."

Aqueduct business up in January

According to figures released Wednesday by the New York Racing Association, Aqueduct's business in January increased when compared with 2005. Average ontrack attendance was up 5.4 percent, to 3,280. Average daily ontrack handle was up 22 percent, to $1,144,498, and total handle on Aqueduct's races was up 4.8 percent, to $8,147,080.

Aqueduct's ontrack business has been helped by unseasonably warm temperatures. Last month was the fourth-warmest January on record in New York. Aqueduct only lost one card. Last January, Aqueduct was forced to cancel two cards that had already started and lost a complete weekend (Jan. 21-22).

Field size was about the same this year (8.32) compared with last January (8.23).