05/28/2001 12:00AM

Acorn gets even stronger with Real Cozzy


ELMONT, N.Y. - Real Cozzy, runner-up in the Kentucky Oaks, will make her next start in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on June 8, trainer Dan Peitz confirmed Monday.

Overall, the Acorn is shaping up a terrific race. Other definite starters include Caressing, last year's 2-year-old filly champion; Cat Chat and Victory Ride, a pair of undefeated fillies, and Unbridled Elaine, a winner of three of four starts. Possible runners include Latour, Dark Ending, Irish Fantasy, Starrer, and With Ability.

Real Cozzy, a daughter of Cozzene, won three consecutive races last winter, including the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Oaks. After a disappointing effort in the Fantasy - where she reaggravated a back injury - Real Cozzy closed strongly to finish second behind Flute in the Kentucky Oaks.

Saturday, Real Cozzy worked five furlongs in 1:03.20 over a wet Belmont training track labeled good. Peitz said the move was inhibited a bit by another horse breaking off at the same time as Real Cozzy. The exercise rider took a strong hold of Real Cozzy, not wanting to get in a duel.

"``He didn't want her to go running off,'' Peitz said. "She finished up the right way.''

The Acorn will represent a cutback in distance to a one-turn mile after Real Cozzy has been running around two turns where she has raced from well off the pace.

"``I don't think she has to be 10 or 15 lengths out of it,'' Peitz said. "``It's just worked out where there's been plenty of speed in all her recent races where she didn't need to be that close.''

Peitz said Larry Melancon will come in to ride Real Cozzy in the Acorn.

Wheelaway back in training

Wheelaway, unraced since a fourth-place finish in last year's Belmont Stakes, returned to trainer John Kimmel's Belmont Park barn over the weekend. Wheelaway was beset by numerous ailments the last year, but Kimmel is hopeful he finally has the horse headed in the right direction.

"Everything is resolved from his little incident at Payson,'' Kimmel said referring to a day when Wheelaway broke through a fence while chasing a loose horse. "`Please, let's have an uninterrupted go of it from here.''

Kimmel said Wheelaway was "right on the cusp of being ready to run'' before that Payson incident. He hopes to have Wheelaway ready to run by the end of the Belmont meet or the beginning of Saratoga.

Hero's Tribute a little tender

Trainer John Ward said Sunday that Hero's Tribute came out of his victory in Saturday's Peter Pan Stakes "``a little tender in his shoulder, which you'd expect from an animal that ran on that kind of racetrack.'' Ward didn't view the tenderness as a major problem and still plans to point Hero's Tribute to the Grade 1 $500,000 Swaps on July 15 at Hollywood Park. Ward was uncertain whether Hero's Tribute would run before then or not.

Peter Pan runner-up E Dubai came out of the race in good shape, according to assistant trainer Laurent Barbarin, and will be pointed to the Dwyer on July 8.

Dayton Flyer, the third-place finisher, came out of the Peter Pan with"stingy feet,'' according to trainer Robert Barbara. Barbara said he hoped to have Dayton Flyer ready for the Dwyer.

Luzzi accepts Venezia award

Mike Luzzi was presented the Mike Venezia Award before the running of Monday's first race. The award, named for jockey Mike Venezia, who was killed in a Belmont Park spill in the fall of 1989, is awarded to the rider who "exemplifies" extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship.'' Media, fans, and jockeys vote on it.

"I had to think about it. At first it was just okay, that's pretty nice,'' Luzzi said after being presented the award by Venezia's widow, Helene. "But then I thought about it and to be recognized by your fellow jockeys who you spend a lot of time with, to be honored like this, is special,'' he said.

Other winners of the award include Laffit Pincay Jr., Jerry Bailey, Angel Cordero, Pat Day, Gary Stevens, and Jorge Chavez.