03/12/2003 12:00AM

Capuano takes New York route with Cherokee's Boy

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Gary Capuano used the New York route to the Kentucky Derby with Captain Bodgit, who won the 1997 Wood Memorial before finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness.

Sunday at Aqueduct, Capuano will saddle the promising Cherokee's Boy in the $200,000 Gotham, a prep for the $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 12.

At this stage in his career, Cherokee's Boy is not as accomplished as Captain Bodgit, who was a graded stakes winner as a 2-year-old and had won the Grade 1 Florida Derby before winning the Wood Memorial.

Cherokee's Boy, however, is no slouch. A Citidancer colt who was bred and is owned by partners Foard J. Wilgis and Dave Piccarello, he has won half of his 10 starts, including four restricted stakes races, and has earnings of $309,929.

Cherokee's Boy won his last two starts at Laurel Park in the Goss Stryker and Deputed Testamony. Those stakes were won last year by Magic Weisner, who went on to finish second in the Preakness and win the Ohio Derby.

Cherokee's Boy "is not as far along as Captain Bodgit, but he has a lot more early speed than Captain Bodgit did," Capuano said. "How far that speed will get him is still up in the air. Cherokee's Boy is a nice horse, but he has a lot to prove to me. He still has to make the grade and step up. Even though he has run with some nice horses, he hasn't won a stakes that wasn't restricted."

In his only start in a graded stakes race, Cherokee's Boy finished third in last November's Grade 3 Laurel Futurity, where he was beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Toccet. As a 2-year-old, Cherokee's Boy also finished third in the Great State Challenge Juvenile at Sam Houston and the Delta Jackpot Stakes at Delta Downs.

Ryan Fogelsonger, who won the Eclipse Award for top apprentice in 2002, will ride Cherokee's Boy.

There is a possibility that the Grade 3 Gotham, which will be run around two turns at a mile and 70 yards on the inner track, could be split into two divisions. There are at least a dozen probable starters and the connections of several other horses are on the fence. If the Gotham isn't split, the field will be limited to 12 runners, with preference in an overdrawn field determined by condition eligibility, beginning with stakes winners. Ties will be broken by earnings.

Trainer Gary Contessa worked his confirmed Gotham starter, Grey Comet, a half-mile in 50.71 seconds at Aqueduct Wednesday.

With Peace Rules, everybody wins

Contessa said there was nobody cheering harder than he was for Peace Rules in the $750,000 Louisiana Derby.

Contessa initially trained Peace Rules, whose win in last Sunday's Louisiana Derby placed the colt squarely in the Kentucky Derby picture.

Contessa bought Peace Rules for $35,000 as a 2-year-old at the Ocala Breeders' March sale for his client Maggi Moss, with the intent of selling him if he showed promise in his early races.

Jack Cohen and Greg Dickinson later bought into him and became partners with Moss. The partnership sold Peace Rules to Edmund Gann for $350,000 after the horse won a maiden race on the turf by four lengths in his third start at Belmont Park Sept. 25.

Contessa routinely scouts 2-year-old sales for affordable horses that he believes will develop into promising runners, with an eye on selling them for a profit for his clients. He estimates that in the last nine years he has privately sold seven horses for six figures after buying them for less than $50,000, among them stakes-placed runners Custom Made and Giving Noreen.

Peace Rules's "winning gives credibility to what I do," Contessa said. "I want to be known as a guy that sells horses that go on to do something. I sold Peace Rules for 10 times what I paid for him and didn't ever hesitate to take $350,000. This horse has been a bargain for everyone."

My Cousin Matt's travel plans

General George winner My Cousin Matt was scheduled to leave New York on Thursday for Florida, where he will catch a Saturday flight to Dubai for the $2 million Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba on March 29.

My Cousin Matt's trainer, Scott Lake, is scheduled to leave for Dubai March 26. Lake said the last couple of days have been hectic planning the Dubai trip.

"I've never done this before, so it's new to us," said Lake, who trains My Cousin Matt for owner Richard Englander. "We've got jugs of water and carrots to keep him busy on the flight, which I hear is a 23-hour ordeal, stall to stall. We'll be sending all his feed with him, too."

Lake said he believes My Cousin Matt is "one of the top three contenders" in the Golden Shaheen, which is run at six furlongs on a straightaway.

Another American runner bound for the Golden Shaheen is Xtra Heat, who finished third in the race last year.

Addicks heads feature

Friday's feature is a $44,000 allowance race for nonwinners-of-two lifetime. A field of seven older males were entered for the 1 1/8-mile race.

Addicks, the beaten favorite at this level in his last two races, has only finished worse than third in two starts. Richard Migliore rides Addicks, who is trained by John Kimmel, from post 3.

Solicitor General drops back in distance after winning a maiden race at 1 1/4 miles over the inner track Feb. 13.