03/01/2004 1:00AM

A familiar race for Ground Storm


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Ground Storm, who won Aqueduct's Stymie Handicap in 2002 and finished third last year, will run in the race for a third time on Saturday.

Ground Storm, who is coming off a win in an allowance/optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 18, is scheduled to arrive in New York from Florida on Wednesday. Ground Storm put in a strong performance in his last start - which came on the heels of a seven-month layoff - and won the 1 1/16-mile race by 1 1/4 lengths. The 8-year-old earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 102. Since the win, Ground Storm has worked four times at Payson Park, including a bullet half-mile in 49.60 seconds on Feb. 24.

Javier Castellano will ride Ground Storm, an inner-track specialist with a record of 4-2-2 in eight starts, in the $75,000 Stymie.

Arthur Tsiamis, Mott's assistant in New York, said he hopes that Ground Storm will bring the Mott stable its first stakes win this winter at Aqueduct. On Saturday in the Busher Stakes, the Mott-trained Taittinger Rose finished second to Fond. Tsiamis said the stable has been doing well with a small number of horses in the barn.

"We have about six or seven in the barn, and we've won six of 28 starts at the meet," Tsiamis said. "I would really love to win a stakes, and I was hoping that Taittinger Rose would do it. I've been bugging [Mott] to send Ground Storm up here. Ground Storm is a warrior horse, there's no question about that."

Tsiamis, 33, began working for Mott last October and previously worked for trainer Felix Nuesch at his Braeburn Training Center in Virginia.

The other horses probable for the 1 1/8-mile Stymie, the final stakes scheduled over Aqueduct's inner track, are Classic Endeavor, Lord ofthe Thunder, Loving, and Rogue Agent. Gran Cesare and My Man Ryan are listed as possibles.

Six-figure carryover

Wednesday, the first of the final five days of the inner track meet, will feature a pick-six carryover of $134,737.

Wednesday's pick six encompasses the fourth through ninth races and comprises three claiming events, New York-bred maiden and allowance races, and an open allowance race.

The $45,000 allowance feature, the eighth race, is a sprint for 3-year-old fillies. The second-level allowance drew a field of seven, including Highgate Park, who is coming off a loss as the favorite in the Ruthless on Jan. 4.

Highgate Park, trained by Todd Pletcher, finished fifth and last in the Ruthless after stumbling at the start. In her previous start, Highgate Park annihilated nine rivals in a first-level allowance race, which she won by 9 1/2 lengths in the mud on Dec. 11. Seth Benzel, Pletcher's assistant, said Highgate Park might have regressed off that big effort when she ran back in the Ruthless.

"It was a big performance for her before she ran in the Ruthless and when she ran back in the stake, she just was never comfortable," Benzel said. "She had horses to her inside and outside, who were [forcing] her to go, and she might have gotten upset by that."

Castellano rides Highgate Park, who drew the outside post and should get an ideal trip with three speed horses, Pacific Island, Cherry's Hunter, and To the Alamo, drawn to her inside.

Pacific Island runs back on less than a week's rest for the meet's leading trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr. A daughter of Grand Slam, Pacific Island set the pace and was an easy winner of her last start on Feb. 26.

Standswithafist, who in an equipment change will wear blinkers Wednesday, makes her first start for trainer Patrick Reynolds. A Gold Case filly, Standswithafist crossed the finish line first in the Colleen Stakes at Monmouth Park last year but was placed second for interference. In two subsequent starts, she was overmatched in graded company and finished off the board.

Three options for Evening Attire

Last Saturday at Belmont Park, Evening Attire worked for the first time since finishing third and being elevated to second in the John B. Campbell at Laurel Park on Feb. 14. On the training track, Evening Attire covered four furlongs in 48.70 seconds.

Pat Kelly, Evening Attire's trainer, said he plans on running Evening Attire in April, but hasn't decided upon a race.

Kelly is considering three races on April 3: The $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct, the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap, or the $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap.

In his last start, Evening Attire nearly went over the rail in the Campbell when he was interfered with by Rogue Agent, who was disqualified from second and placed third.

Quantum Merit back to work

Quantum Merit, who won two restricted grass stakes in New York last year, had his first breeze of the year at Belmont on Saturday. He worked three furlongs in 37.66 seconds.

After Quantum Merit won a division of the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 9, trainer Del Carroll II sent him to Chimes Bell Farm in Aiken, S.C. for a break. The horse returned to Carroll's barn on Feb. 14.

Carroll said he would like to have Quantum Merit ready to race in April, when the turf season in New York begins. He said that usually the racing office schedules "a money-won race in April as a prep for the Fort Marcy."

The Grade 3 Fort Marcy, the first grass stakes of the year in New York, will be run on April 24 at Aqueduct.