12/12/2005 12:00AM

Evans decides to branch out

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Owner Edward Evans, whose main trainer on the East Coast for years has been Mark Hennig, is adding a couple of high-profile trainers to his roster. Hennig confirmed that Evans has recently given horses to Todd Pletcher and Richard Dutrow Jr.,

the two leading trainers on the New York Racing Association circuit.

Evans, who owns Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va., recently sent five unraced 2-year-olds to Pletcher and an additional three horses to Dutrow. It is believed that Hennig will continue to train the majority of Evans's horses. Evans did not return messages seeking comment.

"I understand Mr. Evans has the desire to do a little bit of diversification, and he explained to me I would continue to train the bulk of Mr. Evans's horses," Hennig said. "I'm very proud of the job that we've done in helping to develop one of the finest broodmare bands in the country, and I look forward to continued success."

Evans and Hennig have enjoyed great success in the last decade. Among the horses they've campaigned are Grade 1 winners Gygistar, Summer Colony, and Raging Fever, as well as stakes winners Colonial Minstrel, Gold Mover, Halo Homewrecker, Seeking Daylight, Stormin Fever, and With Ability.

This year, Tap Day won the Meadowlands Cup and was second in the Suburban before running poorly in the Japan Cup Dirt last month.

McGaughey runners like inner track

The expanded inner-track meet prompted Shug McGaughey to keep some of his horses in New York longer to find out just how they would handle the winterized surface. Thus far, the majority have passed the audition.

McGaughey has won 3 races from 7 starters, including Saturday's Grade 3 Queens County Handicap with Philanthropist. While all of his winners have been sent to south Florida, some are likely to return to New York to run over the inner track again.

One of those horses is Happy Hunting, who won a third-level allowance race last Thursday and is likely to return to New York for the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 21.

"One of the things I was trying to do was with that track staying open until [March 27] - I wanted to run some over it and see how they did to maybe send them back up there and run them over it later on," McGaughey said Monday from Gulfstream Park. "Plus, they were all doing good."

McGaughey said he believes that Philanthropist could blossom into a Grade 1-caliber stakes horse and has already penciled in the $500,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 4 as an early target in 2006. McGaughey said Philanthropist would likely run next in the Hal's Hope on Jan. 7.

Philanthropist, a son of Kris S. out of the dam Hidden Reserve, was plagued by ankle and foot issues early in his career. "Nothing major, just little things," McGaughey said.

Philanthropist has won three consecutive races and was extremely game to win the Queens County after being passed by two horses in upper stretch.

"He's got a chance to be a nice horse," McGaughey said. "His lingering problems are behind him, hopefully. He's really just learning how to run. I'm hoping he's the kind that can step up and become a Grade 1 handicap horse."

Meanwhile, McGaughey still has several horses left to run over the inner track. Dream Time is entered in Thursday's $65,000 Ride Sally Stakes, while Strategy is being pointed to Saturday's $75,000 Ladies Handicap.

Smuggler back in training

Smuggler, a leading contender for the 3-year-old filly Eclipse Award, returned to training Monday at Gulfstream Park, McGaughey said.

Smuggler has not run since winning the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 at Saratoga. She developed a fever that forced her out of the Alabama. After a stint on the farm, Smuggler returned to McGaughey's Belmont Park barn in late September and even breezed in late October before being sidelined again with a "terrible intestinal impaction," McGaughey said.

He said that Smuggler, who also won the Mother Goose, simply jogged Monday at Gulfstream, and he hoped to get her to the races sometime during that meet.

Good Reward, who won the Grade 1 Manhattan, worked four furlongs in 49.40 seconds on dirt Monday at Gulfstream. McGaughey said Good Reward is a candidate for the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup and/or the Pan American Handicap at that meet.

Rice suspended for positive

Trainer Linda Rice began serving a 20-day suspension on Monday as the result of one of her horses testing positive for a banned substance. The suspension was reduced from 45 days for Rice waiving her right of appeal.

The Rice-trained Motor City Mama was found to have the presence of the pain reliever butorphanol in her system following her win in the second race at Belmont Park on Oct. 2. The horse was ordered unplaced in the order of finish.

In addition to the suspension, Rice was fined $1,000. In her absence, Rice's horses in New York will run under assistant trainer Celine Parrilla's name.

Trombetta seeks another stakes win

The Maryland-based trainer Michael Trombetta enjoyed his trip to New York so much last weekend that he plans on making another one this weekend.

On Sunday, Trombetta won the $66,750 Twist Afleet Stakes with longshot Grecian Wings ($67), who received a perfect stalking trip under Pablo Fragoso to win by 5 1/4 lengths.

This weekend, Trombetta is planning to send Acclimate to Aqueduct for the Grade 3, $100,000 Gravesend Handicap at six furlongs. Acclimate, a son of Forestry, is coming off a 5 1/2-length allowance score at Laurel Park on Nov. 25.

"He's doing very well, we're coming off two really good races for him, and I like to run my horses when they're going in the right direction," Trombetta said.

- Eibar Coa won 8 of the 18 races run at Aqueduct over the weekend. Unfortunately, that will have to suffice for a while as Coa on Monday began serving a seven-day suspension for a careless riding infraction dating back to July 4.