07/14/2005 12:00AM

Going gets tougher for Naughty New Yorker

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As a deep closer, Naughty New Yorker needs a fast pace to make his late kick effective. He got an ideal setup three weeks ago in the Mike Lee Stakes, but faces the prospect of a different pace scenario and far more traffic in Saturday's $150,000 New York Derby at Finger Lakes.

The 1 1/16-mile derby, restricted to New York-bred 3-year-olds, is the second leg of the OTBs' Big Apple Triple. If Naughty New York Yorker can add the derby to his Mike Lee score, he would be in line to collect a $250,000 bonus by winning the Albany Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

First, however, must buck a recent trend. No horse has won the first two legs in the series since Image Maker in 2000.

In the seven-furlong Mike Lee at Belmont, Naughty New Yorker capitalized on a blistering half-mile pace of 44.45 seconds to rally from 14 lengths back in the early going. He drew off to finish 2 1/4 lengths ahead of another closer, Sort It Out.

The Bob Baffert-trained Sort It Out is cross-entered in Sunday's $300,000 Leonard Richards at Delaware Park, with Jerry Bailey named to ride. No rider was named aboard Sort It Out at Finger Lakes.

Unlike in the Mike Lee, where Naughty New Yorker had to pass only five horses, he could have up to 11 rivals on Sunday, which would make it more difficult for him to weave his way through the crowd.

One of trainer Dominic Galluscio's two entrants, Meniscus, appears dangerous, with two wins and a near-miss in three starts. Meniscus, a front-runner, was aided by an inside bias and an extremely fast main track at Belmont in his last two races.

ran poorly in a turf experiment last time out, but two races ago earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure for his 12-length win in a main-track allowance at Woodbine.

cleared his first two allowance conditions in back-to-back starts at Belmont with Beyers of 99 and 93. He will be making his first start around two turns in the derby.

Goldandroses won a statebred stakes going a mile at Aqueduct in April, then was freshened for two months before getting cooked in the hot pace of the Mike Lee. He's eligible to improve making the second start of his form cycle.

* Top Shoter, 6 for 6 at Finger Lakes and an easy winner of his last two starts, will try to overcome his weight assignment of 130 pounds in the $50,000 Wine Country Handicap at six furlongs.