12/26/2002 1:00AM

Barbara ending year with a bang


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The year is about to end, but trainer Bob Barbara is just getting started.

Through the first three weeks of Aqueduct's inner-track meet, Barbara has five wins and two seconds from nine starts. His five wins equal the most he's had for any single New York Racing Association meet this year. During the 2001-02 inner-track meet, Barbara was just 3 for 43.

"They're just running," Barbara said Thursday. "They come back after the races, and they're sleeping and lying down because they gave it their all that afternoon. I didn't change anything. I'm just putting them in the right spots."

Last week, Barbara won three races with maiden 2-year-old fillies. Two of those fillies, Lizzy Cool and Our Nancy Lee, are nominated to the $75,000 Ruthless Stakes on Jan. 5. The Ruthless, run at six furlongs, is the first stakes for 3-year-old fillies in 2003. Lizzy Cool won a $75,000 claiming race by 5 1/2 lengths on Dec. 18, receiving a Beyer Speed Figure of 71.

"I'm thinking about running Lizzy Cool because she's a very fast filly," Barbara said.

Barbara may also send out Heavenly Kevin in the $75,000 Count Fleet Stakes for 3-year-old colts on Jan. 4. Heavenly Kevin, a son of Banker's Gold, won his maiden over the main track in front-running fashion on Nov. 30, beating Defy Logic. Heavenly Kevin came back on Dec. 18 and finished second behind Formidable Fox in an entry-level allowance going one mile.

Despite the success of his 2-year-olds, Barbara seemed especially proud of the turnaround by Brightest Ice, a gelding who will turn 4 on Jan. 1. Last Saturday, Brightest Ice won an entry-level allowance race, his third consecutive victory.

"He always had talent," Barbara said. "He went through some pain when he was young where he wasn't thrilled about coming over here and racing. We dropped him [to $16,000] to get his confidence back and he started feeling good about himself. He might be okay the way he's running."

Stellianos looks like a bargain

Trainer Leah Gyarmati was flipping through the sales catalog of the Belmont horses of racing age sale held on Oct. 29 when she came across an intriguing prospect in Stellianos.

Though the 4-year-old New York-bred gelding hadn't raced since May 18, he showed success over the inner track and had held his own versus open company rivals. Gyarmati sought out the gelding's trainer, Del Carroll, who assured Gyarmati that the horse was sound, and was being sold "due to a situation with the owner," Gyarmati said.

Gyarmati purchased Stellianos for $40,000 on behalf of William MacMillen. On Dec. 15, Stellianos finished second in a second-level allowance race, receiving a Beyer Speed Figure of 95. Sunday, he will run in the $75,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes for New York-breds.

Gyarmati said she was most impressed with the way Stellianos came from off the pace from post 8 to be second behind Tailfromthecrypt on Dec. 15. His previous successes had come while racing on or near the pace.

"I didn't know if he was a one-dimensional horse," Gyarmati said. "With the post position we had, and the speed inside of us, I thought we should try to experiment and sit mid-pack. He surprised me actually."

Gyarmati said the only concern she has about running Stellianos back in the Alex M. Robb is the potential for him to regress after running such a big race off a long layoff. On Tuesday, Stellianos worked a half-mile in 47.12 seconds over Belmont's training track. It was the fastest of 146 works a the distance.

* Apprentice Luis Chavez has retained Jose "Chocolate" Rivera to be his agent. Jorge Velasquez had represented Chavez. Rivera is also the agent for Lorenzo Lezcano, last year's inner-track leading rider, who is stuck in Panama with visa problems.