03/25/2007 11:00PM

Dominguez can taste Big A riding title


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Ramon Dominguez thought about being leading rider here even before the Aqueduct winter meet began. Now, with just four days left in the inner-track season, and despite missing four weeks due to injury, Dominguez's goal is within reach.

Dominguez capped a 13-win week by recording two more victories on Sunday, giving him 96 for the meet, one more than Eibar Coa. It was the first time Dominguez led Coa since Feb. 1, when Dominguez injured his right knee in a spill that forced him to miss four weeks. A perennial power on the Delaware circuit, the 30-year-old Dominguez seeks his first riding title in New York.

"It's something I thought about even before getting started here," Dominguez said between races on Sunday. "I was hoping to have enough business to be a factor in the standings. Now that we're getting close to the end it's definitely something I am thinking about.

"It would mean a lot to me to come to New York and be leading rider, especially for me; I'm kind of an outsider," Dominguez added. "New York is the big leagues of racing. To be leading rider, I feel like it would be an accomplishment."

Dominguez, who finished five wins behind Coa last winter after skipping the first month of the meet, seemed well on his way to the title after the first two months of this winter's meet. But Dominguez missed four weeks due to an inflamed right knee suffered in a spill here on Feb. 1. He went from having a 13-win lead to staring at an eight-win deficit, one that grew to 10 after the races of March 1.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy after that," Dominguez said. "At the same time, it was possible, depending on how much [Coa] won while I was out. I knew there wasn't going to be a lot of time left, but I still thought I could make it up."

Dominguez's chances of winning the title could be hurt by the fact that he will be at Gulfstream Park on Saturday to ride Chelokee in the $1 million Florida Derby. However, Coa could also be out of town Saturday, though his plans aren't final, according to agent Matt Muzikar.

On Monday, Coa was scheduled to undergo a laser procedure to remove a kidney stone. However, Muzikar was confident Coa could keep his six riding assignments on Wednesday.

Muzikar said that last fall Coa underwent kidney stone surgery on a Monday and was able to ride that Wednesday. And this time Coa's procedure is not as invasive, Muzikar said. Despite Dominguez's success this winter, he plans to return to Delaware Park when that meet opens on April 28.

"My family and my life right now is in Delaware," Dominguez said. "I like where I'm at, the quality of life; I'm not ready to give it up. If and when I decide to come here full time I hope the opportunity is still there."

Santos visits track while on the mend

Jockey Jose Santos was a visitor to Aqueduct on Sunday, his first appearance at the track since suffering serious injuries in the same Feb. 1 spill that affected Dominguez. Santos, who must wear a body cast to stabilize his vertebrae, said he will undergo an MRI in the middle of April that will determine the next phase of his recovery.

"The problem was I had two fragments of the vertebrae too close to the spinal cord, so we're going to see if it moved or not," Santos said. "I'm still in pain in my back, but it's not as much as it used to be."

Santos said he no longer feels pain in his sternum, which he broke during the spill. While at the track Sunday, Santos viewed a tape of the accident.

"It was kind of ugly," Santos said. "I got stuck in the ground like a nail. I didn't even bounce."

Santos, 45, said he wants to ride again, but understands that the decision may not be his.

"If the doctors say it's going to be too dangerous, I'll have to start looking for another career," he said. "But at the moment my hopes are to go back and ride."

Santos is one of three finalists among jockeys on this year's Hall of Fame ballot. He is up against Alex Solis and Randy Romero and all three have comparable statistics. Though he has fewer wins than the other two, Santos has won a national money title, an Eclipse Award, and a Kentucky Derby.

"Just to be nominated is an honor," he said. "We'll see if we make it. If we make it, it'll be great. If not, we'll have to wait another year."

Control System likely to step up and stretch out

Trainer Michael Trombetta isn't sure how far Control System wants to run, but he will give the Grade 3 Cicada winner a chance to run farther than six furlongs in her next start. The Grade 2, $150,000 Comely here at one mile on April 14 is a possibility. The seven-furlong Beaumont, a Grade 2, $250,000 race at seven furlongs at Keeneland on April 12, is another.

"That's if she's ready to come back in three weeks," Trombetta said.

Control System entered the Cicada off two easy victories at Philadelphia Park, racing on the lead both times. In the Cicada, Control System came from off the pace and was stuck down inside for the first quarter-mile before finding room to angle out entering the far turn.

"Her first two races, although she was able to make money and bang out a couple of conditions, the downside is you're going to run into superior company and you're going to do it fast," Trombetta said. "She handled it great. I think she's got a bright future."

In winning the Cicada by 3 1/2 lengths, Control System ran six furlongs in 1:10.43 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 88.

Tall Story looks good Wednesday on the drop

A drop in class and a likely return to rating tactics makes Tall Story the horse to beat in Wednesday's second-level allowance feature.

Tall Story drops to allowance company after a fifth-place finish in the Stymie, a race in which he was up on the early pace after breaking slowly under Coa.

"He broke a bit awkwardly and got bounced around a little bit," trainer Tom Albertrani said, "and Eibar gave him a couple of taps to get him back into the race, and he jumped into the bridle more than he was expecting and ended up running a bit too keen. He tired for his early efforts on a track that was heavy and tiring."

With Daddy Joe and Hesabully in the field, the pace should be honest enough for Tall Story and Unigold, who finished second the last two times a this level.

* Indian Vale, the probable favorite for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Next Move Handicap, worked five furlongs in 1:01.43 Monday morning over the Belmont Park training track.

* Gotham runner-up Wafi City worked four furlongs in 48.44 seconds Monday at Belmont. His next objective will most likely be the Gradeo3, $150,000 Withers at Aqueduct on Aprilo28.