03/02/2007 1:00AM

Bailes hopeful Mint Slewlep can run


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Robbie Bailes has all his eggs in the Gotham Stakes basket with Mint Slewlep.

Bailes, a Bowie-based trainer, doesn't have a backup plan in the event that the New York Racing Association fails to lift the ban on horses from four Mid-Atlantic states due to concerns over possible exposure to equine herpesvirus, a highly contagious neurological disease.

On Feb. 24, NYRA barred horses from Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and Delaware until further notice.

Bailes hopes the ban ends in time for Mint Slewlep to run in the Gradeo3 Gotham at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday.

If not, Bailes is in a bad spot.

"The allowance races we were looking at come before the Gotham," Bailes said. "We've been pointing to this race for two months now. Everything is teed up for this one race. We would have to look for something else, but there is nothing on the horizon. We're keeping our fingers crossed and, hopefully, everything will work out okay."

The ban will be re-evaluated on March 7 by Dr. Anthony Verderosa, NYRA's chief examining veterinarian.

"It is still in place," Verderosa said Friday afternoon. "It's an ongoing situation and we have still have five days to make a determination."

Mint Slewlep has not run since winning his maiden at Laurel in October. He came out of the race with bucked shins and has been working steadily all winter at Bowie for the comeback.

The Gotham could be a tall order for the colt's season debut.

"It's a bit of a leap," Bailes said. "I believe, right now, he's that kind of horse. We'll find out how good he is next week. If he's not, we'll take a step back and re-evaluate.

"He's a very talented horse and we're asking an awful lot of him coming off the layoff, but he's been doing everything right so far. He's got the talent and he's got the mental part."

Bailes had not lined up a rider as of Friday morning.

According to stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, other horses on target for the Gotham include Believeinmenow, Cowtown Cat, Crafty Bear, How Sweet He Is, Longley, Sir Whimsey, Summer Doldrums, and Wafi City.

Wild Jam likely for Toboggan

Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. is giving strong consideration to running Wild Jam in the Grade 3 Toboggan, the supporting feature Saturday on the Gotham card.

The 6-year-old Wild Jam was third in last year's Toboggan. The horse has run twice this year at the Big A, rallying for an allowance win in his season debut before flattening out to a fifth in the Paumonok Handicap on Jan. 27.

Perkins said he feels the tactics in the Paumonok were Wild Jam's undoing.

"We tried to lay a little closer with him and it was a pretty good pace," Perkins said. "I don't think he wants to be that close. He just never really ran his race. He seems to have come out of it fine."

Other likely runners in the six-furlong race, according to Byrnes, are Attila's Storm, Cavallo Pazzo, Introspect, and Pavo.

* Gary Contessa, the Big A's runaway leader in the trainer standings, had another big day Friday with four wins. So did jockey Ramon Dominguez, who also had four victories in the third day of his comeback from a knee injury. Contessa and Dominguez combined for three wins: Three in the Bag ($3.20) in the first, Quick Comeback ($6.40) in the sixth, and Log Jam ($3.50), who dead-heated with Pay Attention ($4.70) in the eighth.

* First post at the Big A returns to 1 p.m. Eastern starting Wednesday.