12/08/2006 12:00AM

Bush heading west for pair of stakes

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Tom Bush was planning on giving Finlandia and Rahys' Appeal some time off following their most recent starts. The horses had other ideas.

Thus, Bush has found two stakes races in Southern California for his New York-breds. Finlandia, winner of the Ticonderoga Handicap in her most recent start, is scheduled to run in the Grade 2, $150,000 Dahlia Handicap at 1o1/16 miles on turf at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18.

Rahys' Appeal, who was disqualified from first place in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap on Nov. 24, is being pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 San Gorgonio at Santa Anita on Jan. 7.

"We were going to stop on them both, but they don't seem to want to be stopped on," Bush said.

Without any turf options in the Northeast, Bush had considered pointing Finlandia to the La Prevoyante at Calder on Dec. 16. But the 1 1/2-mile distance of that race was not attractive to Bush.

"I shopped around for one more race before I sent her to South Carolina for the winter, and that seemed to be the right race," Bush said of the Dahlia. "I think this filly is a pretty darn nice filly, and the other filly came back and won a Grade 3 at Churchill.'"

Bush was referring to Sabellina, who won the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill on Nov. 5 after losing to Finlandia in the Ticonderoga.

Bush said he was looking for a dirt race for Rahys' Appeal, but could not find a graded event on that surface until February. The San Gorgonio is run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Rahys' Appeal is 2-2-2 from 10 starts on turf, with her wins coming in statebred allowance heats in the spring of 2005.

Perkins may have a 'Wild' winter

The New Jersey-based trainer Ben Perkins Jr. is back for another winter in New York, and his 18-horse string is headed by inner-track specialists Wild Jam and Wild Gams.

Wild Gams went 3 for 3 over the inner track last winter, including a 3o1/2-length score in the Grade 3 Cicada. Wild Gams had a very productive year, including a narrow loss in the Grade 1 Prioress and stakes wins in the Eleven North Stakes at Monmouth and, most recently, the Grade 3 Safely Kept at Laurel Park.

Perkins said Wild Gams was due to arrive at his Belmont Park barn on Saturday after enjoying some time off at owner Ebby Novak's farm in South Jersey.

"She's doing real well," Perkins said. "She had a long season. Mr. Novak likes to take them back to the farm for a little bit. He's got a little paddock right behind his kitchen so he can look out his window and see the horses."

Perkins said Wild Gams will be pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap here on March 24 with one start likely before then.

Wild Jam has not run since finishing fifth in an allowance race at Laurel Park in August. He has lost seven straight races since winning the Brutally Frank Stakes over the inner track last Jan. 8.

On Friday, Wild Jam worked four furlongs in 48.02 seconds over Belmont's training track. Though it is his first recorded work since August, Perkins said Wild Jam worked a couple of times at Monmouth Park after the clockers had left for the season.

Perkins said one horse who is nearing his return is Joey P., the multiple stakes-winning sprinter who has not been out since finishing last in the Icecapade Stakes at Monmouth Park on Sept. 4.

Perkins said Joey P. has undergone throat surgery since that race and could be ready to return to the races in February.

Contessa remains white-hot

After going 9 for 32 during the inner track's opening week, trainer Gary Contessa has remained on a roll through the first half of the second week with five winners. He sent out three more winners on Thursday - including Silver Prospector for a 4 1/2-length victory in the $67,500 Don Rickles Stakes.

Contessa went 1 for 5 on Friday and is now 14 for 45 for the first eight days of the meet.

* Shaun Bridgmohan snapped a 0-for-27 start to the inner-track meet by booting home Smart Halory ($2.90) in Friday's second race.