04/14/2003 11:00PM

End near for Affirmed Success?

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Affirmed Success came out of his last-place finish in Saturday's Carter Handicap with filling in his right front ankle, a problem that could end the 9-year-old gelding's brilliant racing career.

"Right now, I'd say it's 50-50," trainer Richard Schosberg said when asked if Affirmed Success would race again. "He owes us nothing. We've always tried to make the right decisions with him and he's always come through for us."

Schosberg said Affirmed Success was vanned to owner Al Fried's Buttonwood Farm in Rhinebeck, N.Y., about two hours from Belmont. Affirmed Success was to be reevaluated in 30 to 45 days, after which a decision would be made whether or not to bring him back.

Schosberg said X-rays performed on the ankle were clean.

"He's got the X-rays of a 3-year-old," Schosberg said. "He's not unsound."

In the Carter, Affirmed Success dueled with Congaree, the eventual winner, through fractions of 22.90 and 45.51 seconds before giving way. Schosberg said he hated to have Affirmed Success be that close to the pace, but felt he had no choice given there was no other horse to run with Congaree early.

"Those five-horse fields can be wolves in sheep's clothing," he said. "In a 10-horse field, you know it's going to be an honestly run race. Congaree couldn't leave us alone, and we couldn't leave him alone. I hated that we took him out of his game. In a five-horse field you wind up doing things you don't want to do."

Should Affirmed Success not race again, he will retire with a record of 17-10-6 from 42 starts and earnings of $2,285,315. Of his 17 victories, 10 were stakes, including three Grade 1's - the Carter, Cigar Mile, and Vosburgh.

Meanwhile, Peeping Tom, the Carter's third-place finisher, came out of the race in good order, according to trainer Pat Reynolds. Peeping Tom will be pointed to the $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day, May 3.

Congaree and Aldebaran, the first two finishers in the Carter, are likely to meet again in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont on May 26.

Moon Ballad may be here by summer

Graded stakes winners Imperial Gesture and Essence of Dubai head the list of Godolphin Racing Inc. horses who arrived here a week ago. This summer, Godolphin's Dubai World Cup winner Moon Ballad is expected to arrive to prepare for a run at the Breeders' Cup Classic in October at Santa Anita.

Tom Albertrani, who once again will oversee Godolphin's New York string, said Moon Ballad will be pointed to a race at the Royal Ascot meeting in June and then shortly after could be sent to North America.

"We're hoping to win a Group 1 in Europe and hopefully we'll have him here by the summer," Albertrani said. "He's improved quite a bit and it looks like he prefers running on the dirt. He's a versatile horse. It'll be interesting if we get the opportunity to see him run over here.''

Albertrani said he had no immediate plans for Imperial Gesture, who won the Gazelle and Beldame - both Grade 1's - at Belmont last year before finishing third to Azeri in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Imperial Gesture, a daughter of Langfuhr, did not race in Dubai after developing a hematoma over her hip.

"My guess is she might have cast herself," Albertrani said. "We had to drain it and give her some time. She's galloping. Hopefully, we'll be able to get some works in her in another week."

Albertrani said that while the Shuvee on May 17 may be too close, a possible short-term goal for Imperial Gesture is the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps on June 21.

For the first time in five years, Godolphin will not be represented in the Kentucky Derby. Godolphin's top 3-year-old, Inamorato, ran third in the UAE Derby. He is at Belmont and is unlikely to be pointed to any of the Triple Crown races.

"We'll start off on a lighter program and hope he comes around for us the way Essence of Dubai did," Albertrani said

Essence of Dubai, ninth in last year's Derby, finished his North American stay last year by winning the Grade 2 Super Derby.

Danuta, winner of the UAE Oaks, and Equerry, a Grade 3 winner in Europe, also are part of the Godolphin contingent.

Dutrow keeps eye on weather

Cyber Secret, winner of the Grade 3 Cicada Stakes last out, is given the best shot of any of the expected runners to upset Storm Flag Flying in Friday's $100,000 Comely Stakes. Trainer Richard Dutrow, however, said he would not run Cyber Secret if the track is wet. Rain is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday.

"She wants no part of an off track,'' Dutrow said. "She's doing very good, she's ready to run. If this falls apart we'll point for the Nassau County.

The Nassau County, a Grade 2, $200,000 race at seven furlongs, will be run May 10 at Belmont Park.

Meanwhile, Dutrow said Carson Hollow, recent winner of the Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap, would make her next start in the $150,000 Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont on May 11.

Dutrow said he ruled out the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Derby Day because he plans on shipping Carson Hollow several times later in the year.

"I know the best thing for her is to run her at Belmont, because she really likes that track," Dutrow said.

Passing Shot returns Thursday

New York Racing Association officials were hoping to begin turf racing on Thursday, but a forecast that calls for rain Thursday and Friday could delay turf racing until Saturday at the earliest.

Instead, Thursday's feature is a $46,000 second-level allowance race for fillies and mares at one mile. The Allen Jerkens-trained Passing Shot is 2 for 2 running one mile at Aqueduct and ran a decent second the only time she tried an off track.

Passing Shot has not been out since last August, but blew out in a swift 35 seconds Tuesday morning - the best of 30 drills at the distance - and should get a nice stalking trip under apprentice Luis Chavez from post 8.

Polish Silk and Follow Betsy appear to be the speed of the race, perhaps setting it up nicely for Passing Shot. Call an Audible, who is 2 for 3 over an off track, is also logical for trainer Mark Hennig, who is off to a 5-for-16 start at this meet.