05/12/2005 11:00PM

Galloping Grocer's lesson: Just relax

David Flores was named to ride Greeley's Galaxy in next Saturday's Preakness, and Wilko (above) galloped on Friday at Churchill Downs for trainer Craig Dollase.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Galloping Grocer believe the 3-year-old gelding's best chance for success is when he is into his races from the outset. But just in case the pace for next Saturday's 130th Preakness is suicidal like it was in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Dominick Schettino does not want his horse to be a part of it.

That's why Schettino had Galloping Grocer start his final Preakness workout four lengths behind a stablemate on Friday morning at Belmont Park. With new rider Joe Bravo in the irons, Galloping Grocer cruised past the workmate inside the furlong marker as he completed his five-furlong drill in a swift 59.46 seconds over Belmont's main track. It was the third-fastest of 24 at the distance.

Galloping Grocer's workout and three confirmed rider changes were the biggest news on an otherwise quiet Friday on the Preakness front. There are still 15 horses listed as definite or possible for the Preakness, though the field is limited to 14.

Trainer Nick Zito remained noncommittal on Friday, saying he would work his trio of Noble Causeway, High Fly, and Sun King on Monday or Tuesday at Churchill Downs before making a final decision on who will run.

Edgar Prado, who rode Sun King in the Derby, has picked up the mount on High Limit, the Bobby Frankel-trained colt who finished last in the Derby after being stepped on. David Flores has been named to ride Greeley's Galaxy, the 11th-place finisher in the Derby. Rafael Bejarano will ride Golden Man, provided that horse gets into the race.

Galloping Grocer was being pointed to the Kentucky Derby before he was beaten 26 1/4 lengths by Bellamy Road in the Wood Memorial. His connections tried to rate him that day, and the horse did not respond to those tactics. Then again, no horse was going to beat Bellamy Road in the Wood.

Two weeks after the Wood, Galloping Grocer ran in the Times Square division of the New York Stallion Stakes, where he raced between horses while on the pace. Space got a little tight on Galloping Grocer entering the far turn and he dropped back to fourth. He tried to get back in the race in the stretch, but fell a half-length short behind the tiring duo of Gold and Roses and Big Apple Daddy.

A year ago, Galloping Grocer was one of the more highly regarded 2-year-olds after winning his first three starts - all against New York-breds - by a combined 31 3/4 lengths. He was then beaten a neck by Rockport Harbor in the Remsen. In all three races - and in narrow losses in the Whirlaway and Gotham - Galloping Grocer was on or near the pace.

"We're going to run his style, which is to be close," Schettino said. "That's how he likes to run. What we did in the Wood was a mistake. He likes to be in it early."

In Friday's work, Galloping Grocer started four lengths behind his workmate. Daily Racing Form clocked Galloping Grocer in fractions of 12.28 seconds, 23.96, 35.65, and 47.49, and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.64. Bravo asked his horse in upper stretch, when he passed his workmate, and the jockey liked the response he got.

"He was doing everything nice and easy on his own," Bravo said. "At the sixteenth pole I kind of threw two crosses at him to see what he had. His turn of foot was so impressive, I reached and grabbed him to gear him back down. Everybody knows he has gas, but he doesn't have to be there."

"I wanted Joe to get a feel for him, and in case they go 22 and 44 I wanted to see how he'd handle it," Schettino said, explaining the company. "He was nice and relaxed."

Schettino said Galloping Grocer would likely van down to Pimlico after training hours on Friday.

In other Preakness developments:

* Wilko, who bled while finishing sixth in the Derby, galloped for the first time since the race on Friday morning at Churchill. He had returned to the track on Thursday but simply jogged.

"I'm happy where we're at, the way he's training," Dollase said from Churchill.

Dollase said he was uncertain whether Wilko would breeze before shipping to Maryland on Wednesday.

* Flores will ride in his first Preakness when he replaces Kent Desormeaux aboard Illinois Derby winner Greeley's Galaxy. Desormeaux has a commitment in Japan, where he will be based for the next two months.

"He's riding the favorite in an Oaks worth three of four million dollars," trainer Warren Stute said. "Makes us look like pikers."

Flores has ridden many top horses for Greeley's Galaxy's owner, B. Wayne Hughes, most notably Atswhatimtalknbout, who finished fourth in the 2003 Derby, and Action This Day, who finished sixth in the 2004 Derby.

Greeley's Galaxy was scheduled to breeze Saturday at Churchill Downs, where he is residing in the barn of trainer Al Stall Jr. Stute said that his son and assistant, Glen, would fly to Maryland on Tuesday, and that Stute and Hughes would not get to Pimlico until the day before the Preakness.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman

Preakness contenders

Horses pointing for the 130th Preakness at Pimlico on May 21. The field will be limited to 14.

Afleet AlexT. RitcheyJ. Rose3rd, Ky. Derby
Closing ArgumentK. McLaughlinC. Velasquez2nd, Ky. Derby
Galloping GrocerD. SchettinoJ. Bravo3rd, Times Square
GiacomoJ. ShirreffsM. Smith1st, Ky. Derby
Golden ManR. DutrowR. Bejarano1st, GP alw
Greeley's GalaxyW. StuteD. Flores11th, Ky. Derby
Hal's ImageB. RoseJ. Santos1st, Unbridled
High LimitR. FrankelE. Prado20th, Ky. Derby
Malibu MoonshineK. LeatherburyS. Hamilton1st, Tesio
Scrappy TR. BailesR. Dominguez1st, Withers
WilkoC. DollaseC. Nakatani6th, Ky. Derby
Possible entrants
Going WildD.W. LukasJ. Valdivia18th, Ky. Derby
High FlyN. ZitoJ. Bailey10th, Ky. Derby
Noble CausewayN. ZitoG. Stevens14th, Ky. Derby
Sun KingN. Zitoundecided15th, Ky. Derby