10/17/2001 11:00PM

Cedar Knolls challenges Bedside Manner

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Bedside Manner, with her 7-for-9 record, and Cedar Knolls, who nearly captured a Grade 2 in her last start, are the headliners in the $125,000 Iroquois Handicap on Saturday's New York Showcase undercard.

Eight fillies and mares entered the seven-furlong Iroquois. Bedside Manner and Cedar Knolls each shoulder 122 pounds as the highweights.

Bedside Manner, a 4-year-old, was an easy winner of her stakes debut in her last start, the Schenectady Handicap on Sept. 23. Under her regular rider, Aaron Gryder, Bedside Manner cruised under the wire four lengths in front of Maddie May, who also is entered here.

After easily winning her first two sprint starts at Aqueduct last November, Bedside Manner was tested in her third race when she was headed in the stretch, but fought back and won. Gryder said that two-turn race revealed just how good of a filly Bedside Manner is.

"She out-battled that other horse after losing the lead," Gryder said. "We knew she was pretty good, but that race showed her quality."

A win from Bedside Manner could be just what the doctor ordered for her trainer, Mike Hushion, who is recovering from back surgery.

Bedside Manner, who has early speed, drew post 5.

Cedar Knolls was collared by Finder's Fee in the stretch of the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom last month and was forced to settle for second. One knock against Cedar Knolls, who has amassed more than $300,000 from 22 starts, is her ability to get seven furlongs, a distance at which she is 0 for 5.

Jerry Bailey rides Cedar Knoll for trainer Jim Ryerson.

Maddie May likes Belmont and won the one-mile Maid of the Mist on New York Showcase Day here last year as a 2-year-old.

Intransigence is a threat and could be a decent price. She soundly defeated Bedside Manner this summer at Belmont.

Sleepy Hollow: Distance the question

The $100,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes will separate the stayers from the sprinters in the New York-bred juvenile division. Aside from Finality, who won his maiden at a mile on turf, the mile distance is uncharted territory for those in this nine-horse field.

White Ibis defeated four of these winning the Betram F. Bongard Stakes going seven furlongs in the mud here on Sept. 30. He stalked the front-running Smokieisabandit before wearing that one down inside the sixteenth pole with only three taps of Robbie Davis's whip.

"I think he'll get the mile," trainer Richard Destasio said. "He's an easy horse to train. He's very responsive, he'll do what you want him to do."

In the Bongard, Destasio liked the fact White Ibis drew outside. In the Sleepy Hollow, he will break from post 2 while carrying co-high weight of 122 pounds.

Trainer Mike Ferraro said he didn't think Smokieisabandit handled the mud as well as White Ibis did in the Bongard and hopes a fast track will enable him to turn the tables on Saturday. If he can't harness his early speed, Smokieisabandit looks vulnerable at the mile.

Eye of the Comet stumbled slightly at the break of the Bongard, and raced wide down the backstretch before making a move around the turn and flattening out in the stretch. He gets a rider switch from Paul Toscano to Eibar Coa, and could be dangerous with a clean break and a fast track.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he was just experimenting when he put Finality, a son of Dehere, on the turf. He was pleasantly surprised when the horse won by 5 1/2 lengths.

"He definitely wanted the distance," Pletcher said.

Private Emblem, a son of Our Emblem, was a sharp-looking maiden winner over this track on Sept. 23. He must stretch his speed another quarter of a mile while facing winners for the first time.

Never Give In, Hamanjiz, Catbite, and Red's Red complete the field.

- additional reporting by David Grening