03/10/2003 1:00AM

Full field expected for inner track Gotham


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Switching Sunday's $200,000 Gotham, a Grade 3 prep race for the Kentucky Derby, to Aqueduct's inner track around two turns doesn't look like it has hurt the size of the field.

"It helped it; it looks like a fairly big field," said Andrew Byrnes, the stakes coordinator for the New York Racing Association, on Sunday.

The Gotham was scheduled to be a one-turn mile on the main track, but now will be run around two turns at a mile and 70 yards on the inner track because bad weather has delayed the opening of the main track, at least through Sunday.

The racing office is expecting a full field for the Gotham, with 12 horses permitted to run. First preference in an overdrawn field would go to stakes winners and after that would be decided by condition eligibility. Earnings would decide a tie.

Heading the list of expected runners is Maryland shipper Cherokee's Boy, who won the Goss Stryker and Deputed Testamony in his last two starts at Laurel Park. Local runners Alysweep, winner of the Fred Capossela; Grey Comet, winner of the Count Fleet; Max Forever; Midnight Charlie; New York Hero; Parnell Square; and Torre and Zim. Colita, undefeated in two inner track starts and fifth as the favorite in the Sam F. Davis at Tampa, also is expected, as is Brush With Gold, Gimmeawink, Spite the Devil, and Your Bluffing. Several others are on the fence, including Second in Command, winner of the Best Turn.

The Gotham will be shown on ESPN2 between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and has a scheduled post of 4:50 p.m.

A six-furlong spot for Affirmed Success

Richard Schosberg had a nice stakes schedule mapped out this year for Affirmed Success, a 9-year-old gelding. Schosberg targeted four seven-furlong stakes, the General George, Toboggan, Carter, and Tom Fool, for Affirmed Success. With the exception of the Tom Fool, Affirmed Success has won each of those races in the past. He finished second in two runnings of the Tom Fool.

Now there appear to be two seven-furlong stakes opportunities: the $350,000 Carter April 12 and the $150,000 Tom Fool July 4.

When the General George at Laurel Park was delayed because of bad weather, Schosberg didn't re-enter and ran Affirmed Success instead in a six-furlong allowance race Feb. 26 at Aqueduct. Affirmed Success, who was steadied in deep stretch, finished third in that race, which was run in track-record time.

The allowance was a prep for Saturday's $100,000-added Toboggan, a seven-furlong race on the main track. Since the main track opening has been pushed back, the Grade 3 Toboggan will be run on the inner track at six furlongs.

"It's not what we were looking for," Schosberg said. "We'll see how we draw and make a decision. What separates him is that extra furlong. He loses his advantage because at seven furlongs, he's the best around. At six furlongs, he's a fast horse."

Affirmed Success was assigned 118 pounds for the Toboggan. Multiple Choice, at 119 pounds, is the expected starting highweight. The other probables are Peeping Tom (117), Gold I.D. (113), Judge's Case (113), and The Deputy is Home (113).

One more start for Saskya, maybe

Saskya, the longest price in the seven-horse field, won Sunday's $60,000 Safely Kept for older fillies and mares.

Ridden by Mike Luzzi, Saskya was up in time to defeat the favored Vesta by a half-length. Drexel Monorail finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Vesta. Saskya ($41.20) covered the six furlongs in 1:12.01 over a fast track.

Owned by Doug Koch's Berkshire Stud and Oak Cliff Stable, Saskya will be bred this year to Cozzene. Saskya's trainer, Tom Bush, said it's possible the 5-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon will start one more time in the $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup, a Grade 2 race at seven furlongs, March 29.

Casanova Slammer heads allowance

Even though the main track will not open as originally planned Wednesday, NYRA's 38-day spring meet officially begins and post time for the first race returns to 1 p.m.

Another change beginning with Wednesday's card is that the pick six will now cover the last six races on the card, rather than races 3 through 8.

Wednesday's eighth race is a first-level allowance for 3-year-old males at six furlongs. Ten were entered, including the coupled entries of The Clown and July Child, and Sunshine Brian and Trueamericanspirit.

Casanova Slammer is among the main contenders based on his last race Feb. 19, which was won by Gotham probable New York Hero, who covered six furlongs in 1:10.96. Casanova Slammer, who raced close to the pace set by New York Hero, finished second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths. New York Hero came back and finished second against older horses in his next start around two turns.

Casanova Slammer has hot connections. Greg Martin, who has won with 30 percent of his starters at the inner track meet, trains him. Apprentice Luis Chavez, who rode two winners on Sunday's card and is third in the standings, has the mount.

* Oh Lucky Me, a maiden who finished fifth in Sunday's fourth race, collapsed and died after returning to the paddock to be unsaddled. Celeste Kunz, NYRA's chief examining veterinarian, said the cause was cardiovascular collapse.