12/23/2001 12:00AM

Coyote Lakes could win two 2001 Gallant Foxes


JAMAICA, N.Y. - After watching Coyote Lakes prevail in a hard-fought 1 1/2-mile duel over Banner Headline on Dec. 9, trainer Bruce Levine was concerned about whether the horse would be able to bounce back quick enough to run in the Gallant Fox Handicap.

After watching him train the past two weeks, Levine is no longer worried and is very much looking forward to Coyote Lakes trying to defend his title in Saturday's $100,000 Gallant Fox Handicap at Aqueduct.

"The race didn't take anything out of him," Levine said Sunday. "I walked him two days and trained him the third day after the race."

To confirm his condition, Coyote Lakes on Sunday breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 over Belmont's training track.

Coyote Lakes, a 7-year-old gelded son of Society Max, will be making his fourth consecutive start in the Gallant Fox, run at the marathon distance of 1 5/8 miles. Coyote Lakes won the 2000 running - which was actually run on Jan. 1, 2001, because of a weather-related postponement - after finishing second in 1998 and 10th in 1999. That he will be running in this race for the fourth straight year is a testament to the patience of Levine and owner Roddy Valente.

"Just to have one hang around that long, it's hard today," Levine said. "They don't seem like they last."

While Levine will no longer fret over the condition of his gelding, he does have a new worry in the days leading up to the race. As many as 17 horses are under consideration to run in the Gallant Fox, meaning a full starting gate of 12 is likely. With the race starting at the five-eighths pole - leaving a short run to the first turn - that puts a premium on post position.

"I wouldn't want to be more than six or seven out," Levine said. "There's a lot of horses going into that turn, you don't even have an eighth of a mile. You got to be lucky at the draw."

Post positions will be drawn on Thursday. Weight assignments were made Saturday and here is the list of potential Gallant Fox starters in order of weight: A Fleets Dancer (120), Grundlefoot (119), Coyote Lakes (116), Queensgate (116), Franbulo (115), Ground Storm (114), Durmiente (114), Pleasant Divorce (114), Acres (113), Boston Party (113), Tempest Fugit (113), Top Official (112), Le Beaucet (112), Banner Headline (111), Esperence (111), Gallant Snowman (111), and Payne' s Bay (109).

Proud Man now in Clement's barn

Proud Man, a multiple graded stakes-winning 3-year-old on turf, has switched barns from Harry Benson to Christophe Clement, part-owner Jimmy Iselin said. The horse is currently resting at Lamholm South in Ocala, Fla., and is expected to join Clement's Payson Park stable on Jan. 15.

"Christophe is a great horseman," Iselin said. "His record speaks for itself. He's always liked that horse. He looked at the horse with loving eyes."

This year, Proud Man won the Tropical Park Derby, Palm Beach, Everglades, and Hill Prince - all Grade 3 events. He last raced in the Jamaica Handicap on Sept. 23 at Belmont, where he finished sixth. According to Iselin, Proud Man re-injured his hock, the same injury he suffered while winning the Hill Prince.

Iselin said Proud Man was not being pointed to any particular race, but figured to do the bulk of his racing in New York this spring and summer.

Gryder gets new agent

Aaron Gryder, the leading inner track rider the last three winters, has hired Matt Muzikar as his agent. Gryder had been represented by Drew Mollica, who split with Gryder on Dec. 16 to work for Richard Migliore.

Muzikar, who begins booking mounts for Gryder on Thursday, has represented a number of talented riders, including Joe Bravo, Rachel Lavoy, Mike Luzzi, Patrick Husbands and, most recently, Roberto Alvarado Jr.

Chicago riders will winter at Big A

Roberto Villafan and Carlos Montalvo, the eighth and ninth leading riders at Hawthorne Race Course, respectively, will begin riding at Aqueduct after Jan. 1. Agent Paul DeMarco will represent both riders.

Villafan, a seven-pound apprentice, has won 20 races from 140 starters at Hawthorne. Montalvo, a journeyman, has ridden 15 winners from 130 starters. In the 1999-2000 inner track meeting, Montalvo won 25 races as an apprentice.

* Apprentice jockey Lorenzo Lezcano was suspended 10 days by the stewards for careless riding in Thursday's ninth race. Lezcano, aboard 7-2 favorite Halfway to Heaven, guided his horse to the inside in the stretch and forced Rock Queen, under Chuck Lopez, into the rail, while cutting of Bacara, who unseated jockey Edmund Feurtado. Lezcano appealed the suspension.

* Julio Pezua dropped his appeal of a 10-day suspension and was scheduled to take his days beginning Sunday. He's eligible to return on Jan. 2.