10/20/2004 11:00PM

Galloping Grocer has all the goods

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Galloping Grocer beat statebred allowance rivals by 12 1/2 lengths last month, despite coming out of the race with a lung infection.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher is used to being in the catbird seat when it comes to 2-year-old stakes. So it must take a special horse to make him issue what amounts to a concession speech even before Saturday's $100,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes is run.

"I'd say we're all running for second, assuming Galloping Grocer runs the same way he has been," said Pletcher, who sends out Carminooch in the Sleepy Hollow. "But it's a horse race. Anything can happen."

After winning both of his starts by a combined 24 1/4 lengths, Galloping Grocer figures to be the strongest favorite on a 10-race New York Showcase card at Belmont that includes seven stakes. Galloping Grocer will face just five rivals in the Sleepy Hollow, run at one mile.

, trained by Dominick Schettino, rolled to an 11 3/4-length victory in his debut at Saratoga on Aug. 22. He ran five furlongs in 56.88 seconds, just .17 seconds off the track record, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95. Galloping Grocer returned in a statebred entry-level allowance race at Belmont on Sept. 17, which he won by 12 1/2 lengths.

Galloping Grocer, a son of A. P Jet, did not run very quickly that day. He came out of that race with a bit of a lung infection, prompting Schettino to keep Galloping Grocer out of the Grade 1 Champagne.

On Monday, Galloping Grocer worked six furlongs in 1:13.65 over Belmont's main track and scoped clean. The only question is whether Galloping Grocer can get the mile distance.

"He worked excellent the other day," Schettino said. "I don't see any excuses right now. Distance should be no problem."

John Velazquez, who usually rides for Pletcher, is aboard Galloping Grocer. Velazquez galloped Galloping Grocer out a furlong past the wire in his second start and doesn't think the mile will be a problem.

"I think he should handle it pretty good," Velazquez said.

The competition does not look fierce in the Sleepy Hollow. Up Like Thunder and Freddy the Cap, the first two finishers from the Bertram Bongard Stakes, were not entered back in the Sleepy Hollow.

Carminooch, owned by actor Tony Sirico of "The Sopranos" fame, won his maiden at Saratoga the day after Galloping Grocer did. He came back in the Bongard and ran a disappointing fifth after dueling for the early lead.

"He got stuck inside and seemed to back out of it," Pletcher said. "I don't know that he liked being stuck inside like that. Once in the clear, he showed renewed enthusiasm. Coming in fifth wasn't what we were looking for, but maybe we learned something. He's trained well since."

After running poorly in his first two starts, Precision Perfect has improved with the addition of blinkers and Lasix. He is the only member of the field with a win at the one-mile distance. Richard Migliore rides from post 6.

Accurate, Distinctive Trick, and Naughty New Yorker complete the field.