12/14/2005 12:00AM

Allowance just as tough as stakes

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Forced to scratch from last weekend's $100,000 Queens County Handicap due to a clerical error, has found an equally tough field for half the purse in Friday's $58,000 classified allowance feature at Aqueduct.

Two starts back, Summer Book skipped a condition to win a third-level allowance race at Keeneland by 8 1/4 lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 97. Trainer Niall O'Callaghan shipped him to Calder for the Carl Rose Classic Handicap, in which he finished fifth while encountering trouble on the turn.

"He got held down inside in the race in Florida," O'Callaghan said.

Summer Book has shown marked improvement since O'Callaghan equipped him with blinkers in August. He has a win, a second, and a third from four starts since.

"He's quite a lazy horse," O'Callaghan said. "First race back for me, he got behind for quite a ways and he didn't put in much of an effort. Then he started to come around. We skipped a condition with him at Keeneland and he beat some solid horses."

This allowance race could be Summer Book's audition for the winter. Since he's not a Kentucky-bred, Summer Book would be running for less than half the available purse money at Turfway Park. This race could be a prep for the Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 17.

O'Callaghan will face a familiar foe when Jason Servis sends out the vastly improved Astrologist, winner of four consecutive races. When O'Callaghan worked as an assistant to Tom Skiffington in the late 1980's, Servis worked for the outfit as an exercise rider.

Servis claimed Astrologist for $16,000 from Michael Gill on June 5. After winning three claiming races, Astrologist won a third-level allowance at The Meadowlands by nine lengths, establishing a track record by running a mile in 1:34.16.

Servis said Astrologist was a rank horse when he claimed him, and getting him to settle down has been key to his success.

Summer Book and Astrologist are likely to be forwardly placed in a field that includes other front-running types, like Bahama John.

That could benefit Aggadan, who would probably prefer to stalk the pace rather than set it as he did when third in the Stuyvesant Handicap. Aggadan is 0 for 9 this year, however.

El Provinciano has the look of a live longshot. A 15-race winner in Peru, El Provinciano finished third to Philanthropist in an allowance race in his North American debut.