03/14/2005 12:00AM

Galloping Grocer shows relaxed side

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Galloping Grocer, a cut leg and bruised foot behind him, got some unexpected company for a Monday workout.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Mike Luzzi learned firsthand Monday morning that Galloping Grocer should have no problem relaxing when he runs in Saturday's $150,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

Luzzi, who will ride Galloping Grocer for the first time in a race, put the New York-bred gelding through his final workout on Monday for the Grade 3 Gotham. What would normally have been a routine six-furlong breeze turned into a mini-race when another horse broke off at the five-furlong pole just as Galloping Grocer was approaching the same point of the Belmont Park training track.

Rather than get rank, Galloping Grocer, who had broken off a furlong earlier, relaxed nicely outside his unscheduled workmate before drawing clear of him in upper stretch. Galloping Grocer was timed for a six-furlong move in 1:12.93, getting his final quarter in 24.05 seconds, according to track clockers.

"At first I was a little concerned," Luzzi said, "but this horse relaxed. I thought he'd get racy or something, but he was soft the whole way. I clucked to him once, and he finished nice. He's got a nice stride."

It was the second consecutive week that Luzzi worked Galloping Grocer. Last week, Galloping Grocer went five furlongs in 1:00.60.

"He was more relaxed today," Luzzi said. "Last time, he was a little racy. Today, he was more classy."

Before entering the training track, Luzzi took Galloping Grocer to Allen Jerkens's barn, which in the winter is used frequently as a galloping barn. After Galloping Grocer cantered around the barn five turns, he walked to the freshly harrowed training track, which was labeled fast but still had moisture in it.

"When we brought him out, he knows what he's up to. He gets a little excited, then he takes a deep breath and he relaxes," Luzzi said.

Trainer Dominick Schettino, who watched the work from the clockers' stand with majority owner Robert Rosenthal, said he, too, was concerned when Galloping Grocer picked up company.

"I didn't plan on working him in company, but when I saw Mike relax on him I was happy," Schettino said. "I thought he worked excellent."

At 2, Galloping Grocer won his first three starts impressively before being beaten a neck by Rockport Harbor in the Grade 2 Remsen. In his 3-year-old debut, Galloping Grocer finished fourth, 1 3/4 lengths behind Sort It Out, in the Whirlaway.

Schettino said the cut Galloping Grocer sustained on a back leg in that race, and a bruised foot he suffered subsequently while training, are no longer an issue.

Galloping Grocer was one of three Gotham starters to work at Belmont on Monday. Naughty New Yorker, who was beaten a neck by Sort It Out in the Whirlaway, went five furlongs in 1: 01.67 under exercise rider Danny Vogt. Mr. Congeniality, who won a maiden race over the inner track before going 0 for 2 on turf at Gulfstream, went five furlongs in 1:02.89 over the Belmont training track.

Two Florida-based 3-year-olds pointing to the Gotham worked on Monday. At Gulfstream, Survivalist went five furlongs in 1:03.20. At Palm Meadows, Our Friend Timmy went five furlongs in 1:01.60. Both horses are eligible for their entry-level allowance condition.

Others pointing to the Gotham include Byanosejoe, Distinctive Trick, Maddy's Lion, Pavo, and Touched by Madness. At Philadelphia Park on Monday, Touched by Madness went five furlongs in 1:01.53, the fastest of eight moves at the distance.

The Gotham will be run as a one-turn mile race as Aqueduct's main track is scheduled to open on Friday.

Acey Deucey ready for Cicada

Acey Deucey, who upset the Dearly Precious at 24-1, worked four furlongs in 47.18 seconds over Belmont's training track on Monday. Jockey Diane Nelson was aboard for the move, the second fastest of 75 at the distance.

Acey Deucey is scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Cicada Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

"She's going into this the right way," trainer John Morrison said. "She's improved every start and she's trained a lot better since her victory in the Dearly Precious."

The Cicada field was somewhat in flux as of Monday. Considered definite are Dixie Talking, Megascape, and Phyllis Sassy Girl. Possible are Salute, Pelham Bay, and Take a Check.

Megascape, who was dueled into defeat in the Dearly Precious, worked four furlongs in 48.72 seconds on Monday.

Friedman riding the Stellianos wave

Trainer Mitch Friedman was ready to give Stellianos away during the summer. After claiming him for $16,000 in February 2004, Stellianos went winless in his next five starts.

After a freshening and some work on his feet, Stellianos has turned things around in the last six months. On Sunday, the 7-year-old gelding won an optional claiming race by two lengths, his sixth victory from his last eight starts and his fourth win over the inner track this winter.

Stellianos seems to love the inner track, having posted 8 of his 10 career victories over that surface. But Friedman doesn't buy into the horse-for-course theory and noted that Stellianos's first two wins in this streak came at Belmont and over Aqueduct's main track. Friedman plans on running Stellianos at least once on Aqueduct's main track.

"I don't know if it matters where he runs," Friedman said. "We'll find out. I'm just happy to ride the wave."

Ojibway squeezes in one last start

Like Stellianos, Ojibway is another who has excelled over the inner track, winning 3 of 4 starts on it this winter. With the inner track meet extended two more days, Ojibway gets another chance over the surface in Wednesday's third-level allowance feature at six furlongs.

Ojibway won two starts for Greg Martin before being turned over to Frank Laboccetta in mid-January. After finishing third in his first start for Laboccetta, Ojibway won a second-level allowance by 1 3/4 lengths on Feb. 21. He figures to get a nice stalking position outside the probable pacesetter, Polish Rifle, in this spot.

Polish Rifle finished third in this spot on Feb. 9, but is a contender based on his second-level allowance win here on Dec. 18 and second to Toboggan winner Primary Suspect in October.

* Norberto Arroyo Jr. has appealed a 10-day suspension handed him by the stewards for his ride aboard Key to Love in Friday's ninth race. Key to Love was disqualified from first and placed second for interference in the stretch.