04/30/2004 12:00AM

Gander back tackling statebreds


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - New York's old pro, the 8-year-old Gander, heads a seven-horse field in Sunday's $75,000 Kings Point Handicap at Aqueduct, a 1 1/8-mile dirt stakes for New York-bred horses.

, a winner of 14 of his 57 lifetime starts, will run for the first time in three months in the Kings Point. He is dropping back into the statebred ranks for the first time since the $250,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park Oct. 18, a race in which he finished second, beaten a half-length by Well Fancied. His last three starts have been in graded stakes, including a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 11.

The three-month layoff should not be a concern. Gander has turned in two bullet works for trainer John Terranova since April 7.

The one to beat, however, may be , part of a two-horse entry from trainer Michael Brice. A 5-year-old gelding, Rogue Agent is the lone speed in the race and has the best recent Beyer Speed Figures. Rogue Agent ran just last Saturday, finishing sixth in the Fort Marcy Handicap on the grass at Aqueduct.

Brice said Friday that he plans to start both parts of his entry. The other half, Vault, has been off for 15 months, but recently worked a bullet five furlongs at Belmont in 59.40.

Four other horses are entered in the Kings Point, including Private Emblem, who ships in from Oaklawn Park for trainer Steve Asmussen, the leading trainer in the country by wins. Private Emblem has won $779,103 in 23 career starts, and he recently won the Grade 3 Essex Stakes at Oaklawn. He beat Pie N Burger in that 1 1/16-mile race.

The improving Trial Prep stretched out to a mile in his last start, a three-other-than allowance, and won by a half-length, earning a lifetime-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Trial Prep was one of the more promising 3-year-old New York-breds in 2002. But a ruptured tendon sent him to the sidelines for a year, and after three poor races to start off his comeback, his last two have been strong.

"He's never been doing better," said trainer Steve Klesaris.