04/22/2002 11:00PM

Dr. Kashnikow would prefer firm turf


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Several trainers have targeted Saturday's $100,000 Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct - the first turf stakes of the season in New York - to bring their horses out of hibernation. Six of the nine horses expected to run in the Grade 3 race will be making their seasonal debuts.

Trainer Dr. John Fisher, who took over the training of late last summer, said the Fort Marcy has been on his mind since Dr. Kashnikow crossed the finish line first in the Grade 3 River City Handicap last Nov. 11 at Churchill Downs.

And even though there is a chance the Aqueduct turf course could be soft on Saturday, which may not be favorable for Dr. Kashnikow, Fisher said his horse would run.

"`We just gave him time off after he won the River City,'' Fisher said Tuesday from his base at Fair Hill, Md. "I think he'd been in training for a couple of years so we took our break now or he was going to make us take a break at some point.''

Dr. Kashnikow moved into Fisher's barn last August after he won the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga when trained by John Kimmel. Just before the Fourstardave, Eugene Dixon's Erdenheim Farm purchased Dr. Kashnikow, a gelded son of El Gran Senor.

In two starts for Fisher, Dr. Kashnikow finished fourth in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger at The Meadowlands over a wet turf course before winning the River City over a firm Churchill surface.

Dr. Kashnikow has been in training since early March at Fair Hill and most recently worked five furlongs in 1:00 over the wood-chip course at that training center. Fisher has tabbed Jean-Luc Samyn to ride Dr. Kashnikow on Saturday.

"I don't think fitness will be nearly the issue soft ground would be,'' Fisher said. "When I ran him at The Meadowlands, John Velazquez told me he didn't like the surface, but he still runs his race. He's very happy right now I'm pleased with him.''

With the top two highweights, Forbidden Apple and Del Mar Show, skipping the Fort Marcy, Dr. Kashnikow will be the co-starting highweight along with Sharp Performance at 117 pounds

Also expected to run are Proud Man (116), Strategic Partner (115), Capsized (113), Eltawaasul (113), Megantic (113), and Shadow Caster (112). I'm All Yours (114) and Franbulo (111) are possible starters.

Gander highweight for Kings Point

Gander, winner of the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup last fall, was assigned highweight of 124 pounds for Sunday's $75,000 Kings Point Handicap for New York-breds. Trainer John Terranova is pointing Gander to that nine-furlong race, which would be Gander's first against New York-bred company since he won the Evan Shipman Handicap at Belmont in July 2000.

Earlier that year, Gander finished eighth in the King's Point. Chris Assimakopoulos trained him then.

A field of 12 is expected for the Kings Point, including Sophisticated Man (117), Ahpo Here (116), Fourth and Six (116), Personal Pro (116), Brave One (115), Personable Pete (115), Compelling World (114), Killer Angel (114), Mount Intrepid (114), Stellianos (114), and Sherpa Guide (113).

Pagan Place tries again

Pagan Place, beaten a nose in the final jump of a third-level allowance race here on April 5, will once again try to clear that condition Thursday when he faces four rivals going 6 1/2 furlongs.

In his first start off the Richard Dutrow claim, Pagan Place made a clear lead in midstretch after finding running room only to be nailed late by Cherokee Beau. It was Cherokee Beau's fourth win in his last six starts.

Thursday, Pagan Place will have to deal with Southland Blues, who made a triumphant return to the races last month at Gulfstream, winning a second-level allowance race for trainer Joe Orseno. Southland Blues has his share of physical problems - the 6-year-old has made only nine career starts - but when he's right, he's tough to handle. Southland Blues did win his maiden over Aqueduct's main track in 1999.

Cherokee Beau, a stablemate of Cherokee Prospect, comes off a troubled fourth-place finish in his return from an 11-month layoff. He shows a bullet half-mile workout in 47 seconds, and is reunited with Robbie Davis, who has won on this horse in the past.

Schosberg dressed for success

, who has returned to his best form at the tender age of 8 with wins in the Toboggan and Carter handicaps, will most likely make his next start in the Metropolitan Handicap on May 27, trainer Richard Schosberg said.

"If he's doing as good as he was doing for the Carter, we'll take a shot,'' Schosberg said. "A mile is not his best distance, but maybe we'll get a little rain.''

Affirmed Success finished fourth in the 1999 Metropolitan Handicap.

- The Oklahoma training track at Saratoga was scheduled to open Wednesday morning.