11/26/2004 12:00AM

Board Elligible back with own kind in Montauk


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After twice facing the top older fillies and mares in training and then holding her own with New York-bred males in the Empire Classic, Board Elligible should find some class relief in Sunday's $75,000 Montauk Handicap for statebred fillies and mares at Aqueduct.

Sunday's card, which features 10 races including the rescheduled Fall Highweight Handicap, will start at noon.

A field of 10 was entered for the Montauk, a nine-furlong race in which Board Elligible finished seventh at 32-1 last year. She is a different filly this year, posting 4 wins and 3 seconds from 13 starts. All four of her wins have come against open company, including a victory in the White Carnation Stakes on Belmont Stakes Day.

During the summer, Board Elligible finished fourth behind Storm Flag Flying in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign and fourth behind Sightseek in the Grade 1 Beldame. In her last start, Board Elligible finished fifth, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths by Spite the Devil in the $250,000 Empire Classic.

"I thought she could've beaten them," trainer James Ferraro said. "It was a big field, there was a lot of traffic, she had to weave in and out of traffic, and that certainly didn't help."

As the 122-pound highweight, Board Elligible will spot four to 10 pounds to nine rivals. Among her challengers are two fillies who beat Board Elligible earlier in the year. Our Tune beat Board Elligible by a nose in the Numbered Account Stakes in the mud over Aqueduct's main track in March. Our Tune got loose on the lead under soft early fractions, something she is unlikely to do Sunday with Serenity's Smile and South Wing in the field.

Lady Libby beat Board Elligible by a head in a second-level allowance over the inner track on March 4. Lady Libby has made her last six starts on turf.

French Hideaway, who finished eighth in the Athenia on turf, won her last two dirt starts in New York-bred company.

"I'm happy with where she's at right now," trainer James Moloney said of French Hideaway. "I think she's as good as ever."

Orseno returns to New York

After spending the bulk of 2004 in New Jersey, trainer Joe Orseno has returned to New York with 25 horses for the winter. Orseno was stabled here for several years while he trained privately for Frank Stronach, a period during which he developed champions Macho Uno, Perfect Sting, and Preakness winner Red Bullet.

Orseno believes he will do better than at the last two inner-track meets, when he went a combined 1 for 68.

"As much as I don't like the cold, I like money," Orseno said on a chilly Friday morning at Belmont.

Orseno had a solid Monmouth meeting, winning 20 races from 130 starters and tying for fifth in the trainer standings. At The Meadowlands, Orseno was only 1 for 29.

"At The Meadowlands I ran a bunch of horses in the realm of being sold or claimed," Orseno said. "After Monmouth I walked some of my better horses for a month and freshened them up to get ready for the winter."

Among Orseno's better horses are Grinch and Meadow Fox, a pair of 3-year-old fillies, and Golden Gator, a 3-year-old colt who will stay with Orseno after running well for Tim Kelly.

"I also have some nice 2-year-olds that I didn't want to run at The Meadowlands," Orseno said. "I picked them out of the sales and developed them. I'm back doing what I used to do."

Jocks deem main track passable

Though the jockeys still had some concerns over the condition of the main track on Friday, racing was conducted without incident. The riders felt the main track was unsafe on Thursday, forcing the cancellation of the final seven races of the Thanksgiving Day card.

About 50 minutes before Friday's first race, jockeys John Velazquez, Jerry Bailey, and Stewart Elliott walked the main track near the finish line and still noticed some uneven spots. Some consideration was given to running the card on the inner track.

Bailey and Velazquez then climbed aboard a couple of ponies and rode on parts of the track. Bailey said his biggest concern was the outer part of the track, where the chute meets the main track.

"The first six [paths] are fine, but out there further, when you transfer from the chute to the main track - for a period about an eighth of a mile - it's deep and a little uneven," said Bailey, who also noted that the cushion was down to two inches from its regular depth of 3 1/2 inches.

Velazquez scratches favorite

Apparently, Velazquez did not feel the track was safe enough for Ginger N Sugar, and asked the track veterinarian to scratch her just minutes before the first race was run. Ginger N Sugar was 1-5 at the time. The scratch resulted in refunds totaling $208,809.

Ginger N Sugar's trainer, Richard Dutrow, immediately scratched his remaining two runners on the card - Star of Trieste in the sixth and Jet Prospector in the seventh.

"I'm not saying the card should be canceled or there's something wrong with the track," Dutrow said from Kentucky. "I just did not feel it's a safe track for them. I'm glad Johnny did scratch her. If he felt something wasn't right, he should scratch them."

Diligent Gambler gets ninth win of 2004

When Diligent Gambler won Friday's sixth race, it was the 3-year-old colt's ninth win from 14 starts this year. That ties him with Kipper's an Angel, Warrior's Dance, and Tender Offer for the most wins by a horse in 2004.

Diligent Gambler, a 3-year-old son of Diligence, has won on all four dirt tracks maintained by the New York Racing Association. Diligent Gambler is owned by Castle Village Farm and trained by Leah Gyarmati. He has been claimed twice this year, but was not taken on Friday.

Gullo scores in comeback

Gary Gullo, who quit training 18 months ago to become a jockey agent, made a triumphant return to training on Friday, winning the seventh race with Swinging Ghost, who got up to win the New York-bred second-level allowance by three-quarters of a length.

Stanley Hough had previously trained Swinging Ghost. Hough, who winters in Florida, has left about a dozen horses behind in Gullo's care as Gullo tries to rebuild his stable.

"It's a great feeling, it really is," said Gullo, who represented Jorge Chavez for about 18 months. "I've been away for a year and a half, and this is really what I love to do. I'm thankful to Stanley for helping me out; to try and get horses is tough."