04/24/2002 12:00AM

Gander to drop to New York-bred races


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Gander, who has been rubbing shoulders with racing's elite for the past 19 months, will take a step down in class when he returns to the New York-bred ranks in Sunday's $75,000-added Kings Point at Aqueduct.

Gander, a 6-year-old gelding owned by brothers Mike and Ted Gatsas, hasn't competed in restricted company since winning the Evan Shipman in July 2000.

In 15 starts since then, Gander, New York's Horse of the Year in 2000, has picked up checks in several prestigious races, including the Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Donn, and Whitney. Last fall, Gander, who has more than $1.3 million in earnings, won the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup.

In his 2001 debut, Gander finished seventh in the Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap at Santa Anita on Feb. 3.

Gander's trainer, John Terranova, said he hasn't determined if his gelding's schedule this year will be as ambitious as it was the last two years. The one race Terranova said he would likely skip is the Breeders' Cup Classic. Gander finished ninth in both his Classic starts, in 2000 and 2001. Terranova said the Breeders' Cup would be replaced by the restricted Empire Classic, a race Gander won in 1999.

"In between, it's basically his call," Terranova said. "We'll let him tell us. We don't want to over do it with the old boy and reach for every spot, but so far he's giving us every indication he's as good as he ever was."

Under John Velazquez, Gander worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.14 seconds, breezing, Wednesday at Belmont on the main track. The move was the fastest of 30 works at the distance. Velazquez has the mount in the Kings Point.

Knee surgery sidelines White Ibis

White Ibis, last year's champion 2-year-old New York-bred male, suffered a fracture in his right knee and will be sidelined for four to six months.

White Ibis, trained by Richard DeStasio, was preparing for a division of the New York Stallion Stakes, run at Aqueduct last weekend, when he suffered the injury during a morning gallop. DeStasio said White Ibis underwent successful surgery to insert screws at Dr. Scott Palmer's equine clinic in New Jersey.

Pletcher turns out Nokoma

Nokoma, who performed poorly in both the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial without apparent excuse, has been turned out for 30 days, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

Nokoma, once considered a Kentucky Derby prospect for owner Michael Tabor, is at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

"He's a late May foal and while he was training well, his performances were not up to his capabilities," Pletcher said.

Pletcher said he would like to get Nokoma, who finished second in last year's Remsen to Saarland, ready for the Saratoga meet.

Late Carson vs. Nevada Strip

Late Carson heads a field of six older sprinters in Friday's $54,000 allowance feature for nonwinners of a graded stakes in 2001 and 2002.

Late Carson is 3 for 5 over Aqueduct's main track and 9 for 20 at the six-furlong distance of Friday's race. Velazquez, the meet's leading rider, has the mount for Richard Dutrow Jr., who tops the trainer standings.

Nevada Strip, who nearly always gets a piece of the purse, makes his first start since June for trainer Bruce Levine, who does extremely well with horses coming off layoffs. Mike Luzzi rides Nevada Strip.

Three stakes candidates work

Evening Attire and Macho Uno, candidates for the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs on June 1, worked Wednesday at Belmont. On the main track, Evening Attire covered a half-mile in 48.12 seconds, breezing, after the renovation break. Macho Uno ran his five-furlong work in 1:00.46, breezing, on the training track.

Left Bank, preparing for the $100,000-added Bold Ruler on May 11, worked five furlongs in 1:02.78, breezing, on the main track.

Backstretch crash investigation

NYRA is investigating a motor vehicle accident that injured two NYRA maintenance workers, one seriously, Saturday on Belmont's backstretch.

Nathan Stoudmire, who was in critical condition in the surgical intensive care unit at North Shore University Hospital on Wednesday, was airlifted from the scene after his dump truck reportedly struck a tree on a road that runs parallel to the main track. Stoudmire's passenger, John Borman, was sent to Winthrop Hospital with a head injury.

Several backstretch reports place another vehicle at the scene, which was said to be drag racing with Stoudmire's truck.

John Tierney, NYRA's director of security, said he is unsure what role if any, another vehicle, played in the accident.

"We have conflicting reports about another vehicle," said Tierney, who indicated he would know more Thursday after speaking with detectives from Elmont's 5th precinct who were on the scene after the crash.

* A moment of silence was observed before Wednesday's first race for Ogden Phipps, who died Monday at 93. Phipps was a founder of the New York Racing Association.