03/07/2005 12:00AM

Gotham focus for New Yorkers


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Dominick Schettino and Pat Kelly wouldn't mind seeing winter linger a little longer. As they wait for Mother Nature to decide what she wants to do, both trainers went about their business of preparing their 3-year-olds, Galloping Grocer and Naughty New Yorker, for likely engagements in the $150,000 Gotham Stakes on March 19.

On Sunday, both New York-breds put in solid workouts over the Belmont Park training track. Galloping Grocer was clocked for five furlongs in 1:00.62, while Naughty New Yorker went the same distance in 1:00.72. They were the two fastest works out of 18 at the distance.

Mike Luzzi, who has picked up the mount on Galloping Grocer for the Gotham and Wood, worked the gelding on Sunday.

"He worked excellent," Schettino said Monday. "He did it easy - Mike had him relaxed. He finished his last quarter in 23 and change. He galloped out strong. He came out of it great this morning; his legs are good."

Galloping Grocer, who went 3 for 4 last year, finished fourth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths, in the Whirlaway Stakes on Feb. 12. He was pointing to last weekend's Fountain of Youth, but was forced to miss the race because of a bruised foot. Schettino said he would prefer to keep Galloping Grocer racing around two turns, but would back him up to the one-turn mile of the Gotham as a prep for the $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 9.

"I'd prefer it to be two turns," Schettino said.

The only way the Gotham would be run around two turns would be if bad weather forced track management to delay the opening of the main track, scheduled for March 16. Below-freezing overnight temperatures and snow are forecast for later this week, however, which could hamper the preparation of the main track.

Two years ago, the Gotham was run at a mile and 70 yards around two turns over the inner track when bad weather delayed the main track's opening.

Naughty New Yorker finished a fast-closing second behind Sort It Out in the Whirlaway. Kelly said that his horse needs more distance, and that he really has his sights set on the nine-furlong Wood Memorial. Kelly said he would likely run in the Gotham, regardless of track and distance. Kelly did not nominate Naughty New Yorker to this Saturday's Louisiana Derby because he didn't feel it was worth shipping out of town for a 1 1/16-mile race.

"I've been running a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and 70 all winter," he said. "I just want to stay here, stay healthy, and get to the Wood."

Kelly also said his horse would get a break in the weights in the Gotham, whereas all horses carry equal weight in the Louisiana Derby.

Regarding the Kentucky Derby, Kelly said, "I'm not really worried about the Derby. It's out there, we're eligible for it - if it happens, it happens."

Mr Sword: Gotham or Lane's End

Ernie Paragallo would also like to see the Gotham run around two turns. Paragallo is the owner of Mr Sword, who won a second-level allowance race here last week by 4 3/4 lengths. It was the third straight victory for Mr Sword, a son of Rizzi who is also a half-brother to Song of the Sword, who finished third in last year's Illinois Derby.

Paragallo said that if the Gotham were conducted around two turns, Mr Sword would likely run. If not, then Paragallo would likely ship him to Turfway Park for the Lane's End Stakes on March 26. Paragallo won the 2003 Lane's End with New York Hero.

Like his brother, Mr Sword has come a long way in a short period of time. Song of the Sword won three races in five weeks last winter over the inner track. Mr Sword has won three races in five weeks - two at Laurel and one here.

"He's a lot more mature than his brother was," Paragallo said of Mr Sword. "His last three races have been super impressive."

Paragallo said that Mr Sword had to be rushed to a clinic the second day after he arrived in New York from being purchased at auction last fall. He was suffering from severe ulcers.

Mr Sword has yet to be nominated to the Triple Crown.

Paragallo said Amazing Buy, winner of the Busher Stakes here on Feb. 27, would likely start next in the $150,000 Bourbonette at Turfway on March 26.

Corrado suspended, fined

Trainer Robert Corrado on Monday began serving a 15-day suspension after one of his horses tested positive for a banned substance. The suspension was reduced from 30 days because Corrado waived his right of appeal.

Shesasmokin, who finished third in the 10th race at Aqueduct on Nov. 28, tested positive for albuterol, a bronchodilator. Shesasmokin was disqualified and unplaced in the order of finish. Corrado was also fined $1,000.