02/09/2004 12:00AM

Dutrow plays it safe by scratching horses

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Richard Dutrow Jr., the leading trainer at Aqueduct's inner track meet, voluntarily scratched all four of his runners from Sunday's card because he feared they would test positive for the banned race-day substance clenbuterol.

Speaking from Florida on Monday, Dutrow said his assistants informed him that the four runners had been treated with clenbuterol, a bronchial dilator, too close to race day. Many horsemen train their horses on clenbuterol, but the medication must be out of a horse's system by race day.

"It was too close, I didn't want to take a shot,'' said Dutrow, whose 32 wins are more than double the second-leading trainer. "It's an isolated incident. It was my fault, I just got to hope it doesn't happen again.''

Dutrow's horses were the first or second choice on the morning line in three races on Sunday. Pacific Island, a 3-year-old filly, was the 5-2 second choice in the second; the entry of Mr. Whitestone and Epoxy was the 3-1 favorite in the eighth, and Just Gabi was the 3-1 favorite in the nightcap.

The stewards indicated they would do further investigation into the situation and may want to meet with Dutrow upon his return from Florida. Dutrow, however, said he was not informed that he has to meet with the stewards and doesn't see why he would face any disciplinary action in this matter.

"If they're going to fine me, then I'm going to start lying to them all the time,'' Dutrow said.

Dutrow said he plans to run three of the four horses he has entered on Wednesday. A fourth must scratch because he is part of an entry with the same rider named on both in the nightcap.

Last summer, Dutrow was suspended 45 days and fined $3,000 for the presence of the banned substance Mepivacaine in the postrace urine of Farmer Jake, who finished sixth in a race at Aqueduct on April 27. That case remains under appeal.

Little Matth Man may try Gotham

Immediately following Saturday's Whirlaway Stakes, Philadelphia Park-based trainer Martin Ciresa said he didn't think he would send the victorious Little Matth Man back to New York for next month's $200,000 Gotham Stakes because he didn't want to cut back to a one-turn race.

By Monday, however, Ciresa had a change of heart, saying the Gotham might be the logical spot to run next. Ciresa said he doesn't want to ship Little Matth Man too far out of town, and said the $40,000 Miracle Wood stakes on Feb. 28 at Laurel Park probably wouldn't tell him any more about the gelding than he already knows.

"`The Gotham will answer the class question,'' Ciresa said. "If he runs well but if he doesn't catch up going a mile then you could say, well, he needs a mile and an eighth.''

Little Matth Man, a New York-bred son of Matty G, rallied from 15 lengths back to win the Whirlaway, run at 1 1/16 miles. Little Matth Man earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 82. Ciresa said he would like to keep Little Matth Man's races a month apart, and is a bit leery of running in the Gotham and then wheeling back three weeks later in the Wood Memorial on April 10.

Siblings win on same program

Half-brothers Thanasi and Levendis won split divisions of a New York-bred second-level allowance race Sunday. Both geldings are out of the mare Aristie, a multiple stakes-winning filly and the 1996 New York-bred juvenile filly champion.

Thanasi, a 4-year-old son of Dixie Brass, went gate to wire to win the second race, covering a mile and 70 yards in 1:41.45. In the eighth, Levendis, a 5-year-old son of Ormsby, came from just off the pace to win, covering the same distance in 1:42.69. Both geldings were bred by Athena Kouray, owned by Steven Kouray, and trained by Del Carroll. Katina Sarris, Steven Kouray's sister, owns part of Levendis.

"They both were doing great, both races were very competitive; the scratches certainly helped in the eighth,'' said Carroll, noting there were six scratches in the race. "Thanasi was a fresh gelding and he had a little more focus to him. He got the lead and everything was just right.''

Aristie has been a fairly productive mare. Thanasi exceeded the $100,000 mark in earnings Sunday and Levendis surpassed the $200,000 plateau. Aristie is also the dam of Stellianos, a stakes-placed 6-year-old who has also earned more than $200,000. A 3-year-old out of Aristie by Dixie Brass will not make the races, Carroll said. But, she has a 2-year-old son of A.P Jet and a yearling by City Zip. Carroll was uncertain to whom Aristie is currently in foal.

Evening Attire preps for Campbell

Evening Attire, the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.47 over Belmont Park's training track on Monday - the best of 25 at the distance. He is likely to make his next start in Saturday's $150,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Laurel Park.

For the second straight race, however, Kelly is upset with Evening Attire's weight assignment. Evening Attire was assigned 122 pounds for the ungraded Campbell, the same weight he carried when he finished second behind Seattle Fitz in the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap. Toccet was assigned 119 pounds, but ran in the Strub last weekend. Thus, Evening Attire would be conceding a minimum of six pounds to the field.

"It seems when I get beat I don't get to lose any weight,'' Kelly said. "Seattle Fitz beats me, and he drops two pounds going to Florida. I don't know what I'm going to do. I guess I could go to New Orleans; maybe they'll find someone they can weight above me.''

Kelly was referring to the $500,000 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on Feb. 29.

Snake Mountain gearing up

Snake Mountain is getting closer to his return to the races after he worked six furlongs in 1:16.48 on Sunday over Belmont's training track. He worked in company with the stakes-placed filly Message Red, who was credited for a six-furlong move in 1:16.45. Message Red is expected to run in next Monday's $75,000 Rare Treat Handicap.

Snake Mountain, who won three stakes here last winter, has been away from the races since Oct. 26 with various foot ailments. Shaffick Mohammed, the New York assistant for trainer Jimmy Jerkens, said Snake Mountain has been sound of late.

"He's not favoring his leg anymore,'' Mohammed said. "It'd be nice to get him going again; he's so genuine.''

Aqueduct's Stymie Handicap is scheduled for March 6, but it is unclear whether Snake Mountain would run in a stakes first time off the layoff. Snake Mountain won last year's Stymie.

Araya takes bug boy's book

Rene Araya, who announced last week he was quitting training horses, has become the jockey agent for apprentice rider Catalino Martinez.

According to Araya, Martinez is an 18-year-old native of Panama, who has won 49 races after spending just one year in the Panamanian jockey school. Martinez arrived in New York last Friday and Araya hopes to have him riding by the end of the week.

Araya said he quit training because it was becoming too expensive. Before training, Araya worked as an agent for jockeys John K. Adams, Ron Franklin, and Hector Pila.