12/05/2003 1:00AM

The Gallant Fox won't be quite the same


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The Gallant Fox will be without a familiar face when it is run Dec. 27 at Aqueduct. Coyote Lakes, who competed in the Gallant Fox for the past five years and won the last three runnings of the 1 5/8-mile race, has been retired.

A 9-year-old gelding, Coyote Lakes earned $728,337 in eight years of competition and retires with a 20-8-3 record in 63 starts. In his last start Oct. 25, Coyote Lakes finished eighth as the favorite in a $75,000 claiming race at Belmont Park.

His trainer, Bruce Levine, said Coyote Lakes's physical problems made the retirement sensible.

"I didn't want to hurt him or run him in another claiming race," Levine said Friday. "If he couldn't be competitive in the Gallant Fox, I didn't want to pursue it with him."

Levine said Coyote Lakes might be sent to Arizona to spend his retirement at Triple AAA Ranch, where he was bred.

"Nothing is finalized yet, but he'll have a good home wherever he goes," said Levine, who trained Coyote Lakes for Roddy Valente. "He raced in the Gallant Fox five years in a row, and every Christmas it was like another present for us. There will be a void without him.

"It wasn't so much his longevity that made him amazing, but the way he ran. There would be races where he looked dead at the quarter pole and then would come back and take off with the jock. He was just a lot of fun."

Valente claimed Coyote Lakes for $50,000 in August 1998. Coyote Lakes won 14 races for him.

Literary Light has first stakes win in sight

Literary Light hasn't quite reached Coyote Lakes's status, but he has turned out to be an excellent claim for her owner, Mike Lau of Two Kings Stable, and trainer Richard Schosberg.

Literary Light is the first horse owned by Lau, who claimed Literary Light for $50,000 off trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. in September 2002. Since the claim, Literary Light, a 4-year-old, has won five starts for Lau. She also finished third in the Grade 3 Floral Park on Sept. 13 at Belmont.

Next Saturday at Aqueduct, Literary Light, who won her last start in a classified allowance race Nov. 6, will run in the $75,000 Garland of Roses to try for her first stakes win.

Schosberg said there was one morning this past summer when he wondered if Literary Light would ever run again. Literary Light dumped her exercise rider on Belmont's training track and ran helter-skelter into the rail, somersaulting over it. Miraculously, she escaped with one small cut.

"She's half insane, but she's a wonderful racehorse," Schosberg said. "When I saw what she did that morning, I thought she was either going to die or that her career was definitely over. She limped back to the barn and had one little cut. In about 10 days, we had the tack back on her, and six weeks later, she won a race at Saratoga."

DeStasio says Nevaeh's knee will be okay

Nevaeh, a nominee to Sunday's $75,000 East View, had to skip the race because she came out of her last start with a small chip in her left knee.

A 2-year-old New York-bred filly, Nevaeh is undefeated in two starts. She won her maiden Oct. 23 at Belmont and an allowance race at Aqueduct on Nov. 21.

Richard A. DeStasio, Nevaeh's trainer, said the prognosis is excellent for the filly, who had surgery to remove the chip.

"The chip was in the upper joint, which, if this has to happen, is great," DeStasio said. "She'll winter here in my barn and hopefully be ready in the spring."

* The stewards were busy handing out rulings to apprentice riders Friday. Shannon Uske, who withdrew her appeal for a careless riding suspension, was to start a 10-day suspension Saturday. Edwin Perez waived his right to appeal a careless riding suspension and is suspended three racing days, also starting Saturday. Pedro Cotto Jr. was fined $500 for misuse of the whip during the post parade of Thursday's fifth race.