12/04/2003 12:00AM

Chavez heading to Florida after all

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jorge Chavez was planning to spend the winter riding in New York. But the first day of Aqueduct's inner track meet convinced him otherwise.

On Thursday, Chavez said that he would return to south Florida for the winter to ride at Gulfstream Park, where he was the leading jockey from 1999 through 2001. Chavez will begin riding at Calder on Dec. 15.

Chavez, 42, said that he had trouble breathing in the cold weather on Wednesday, and that convinced him to migrate south for the winter. He said it was a hard decision, because he doesn't want to be apart from his family, who will most likely remain in New York.

"The cold weather is not good for me right now," Chavez said. On Wednesday, he said, "when I rode I was breathing hard. I was fighting with my breathing. In Florida, I can breath good, I'll feel healthier, and you can find a horse for the [Kentucky] Derby."

At Gulfstream in the winter of 2001, Chavez found Monarchos, with whom he won that spring's Kentucky Derby.

This year, Chavez's career almost came to an end in the Florida Derby when the horse he was riding, Midway Cat, broke down at the quarter pole. Chavez suffered multiple fractures in his back, and doctors told him he was lucky he was not paralyzed. In the three weeks leading up to the spill, Chavez had been riding with a rib injury.

Chavez missed two months and by the time he returned he had lost a lot of business. Chavez had a decent Belmont spring/summer meet winning 43 races from 279 mounts. Chavez also, however, had 58 second-place finishes. Chavez suffered through a tough Saratoga where won nine races and had 19 runner-up finishes.

One of the perennial leading jockeys in the country, Chavez this year has won 137 races from 1,000 mounts with earnings of $6.3 million.

"Everybody goes up and down," Chavez said. "It happens to the best jockeys in the world. I'm not the first one, I'm not going to be the last one. It kind of hurts [your pride] a little bit yes, because you've been on the top and now you've gone down.

"What are you going to do? You just work hard. I know I'll be on top again. I just got to keep working. I've done it before and I can do it again. I'm still young, strong, and very healthy."

Iron Deputy works toward return

Iron Deputy, the upset winner of the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap in June, worked four furlongs in 49.45 seconds Thursday morning over the Belmont training track. Iron Deputy is working his way back to the races after having surgery in the summer to remove a chip from an ankle.

"He's coming along good," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

After winning the Brooklyn, Iron Deputy finished fourth in the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington in July and third in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup in August. It was after the Saratoga Cup that Iron Deputy had the chip removed. He had his first work back in October, but following that move he had a wall separation in his hoof.

Jerkens is hoping to get Iron Deputy back to the races in south Florida in either the Fred. W. Hooper at Calder on Dec. 27 or the Hal's Hope Stakes at Gulfstream on Jan. 3.

Meanwhile, Jerkens said that Artie Schiller, who finished fourth in the Remsen, would return to the turf in the $100,000 Tropical Park Derby at Calder on Jan. 1. Jerkens said that he was disappointed in Artie Schiller's performance in the Remsen, but said the 2-year-old came out of the race coughing.

Jerkens also said that Message Red, the beaten favorite in last Sunday's Montauk Handicap, came out of her race coughing.

"She beats that field if there's nothing wrong with her," Jerkens said.

Board disputes Shuman assertion

The New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Thursday disputed trainer Mark Shuman's assertion that it did not allow a split sample to be tested on the horse Askara, who showed the presence of the banned substance celecoxib in her urine after a second-place finish at Belmont Park on Sept. 17.

Stacy Clifford, a spokesperson for the racing board, said Shuman requested a split sample be taken and sent it to Dr. Steven Barker at Louisiana State University. According to Clifford, the board received a letter back from Barker, indicating the test of the split sample confirmed the presence of the medication.

"We wouldn't deny anybody a split sample," Clifford said.

On Wednesday, Shuman was fined $5,000 for that violation. Shuman also received a 20-day suspension for the injection of a steroid given to Askara too close to race day.

Shuman, who is 0 for 4 in the first two days of this meet, has appealed both penalties.

She's Zealous to stay in Northeast

While his horses were winning three races on Wednesday, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. was in south Florida setting up his stable at the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach. She's Zealous ran well enough at Aqueduct on Wednesday, winning a second-level allowance race, to warrant a trip to Florida, but Dutrow said she would stay in the Northeast.

"I don't want to take her to Gulfstream because the only time I had a problem with her ankle was when she raced over the Gulfstream track," Dutrow said.

Dutrow said he would probably look for another allowance race for She's Zealous and then possibly point her to the Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park in February.

"I've always liked this filly. She's got talent," Dutrow said. "I'd love to point her to a race like that. She'll need to run big again."