03/19/2005 1:00AM

Gotham goes to Survivalist

Survivalist (foreground) emerges from a blanket finish to win the Gotham by three-quarters of a length.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A jockey losing his irons, a horse getting hit in the face with a whip, confusion over an objection, and perhaps the emergence of a new player in the 3-year-old division. Saturday's at Aqueduct was nothing if it not eventful.

Survivalist rallied from off the pace to win the Gotham by three-quarters of a length in a blanket finish that ended in controversy. Pavo, who finished second despite jockey Alan Garcia losing his irons midway through the race, was disqualified and placed fourth after Garcia's whip hit the fourth-place finisher, Naughty New Yorker, in the face at the wire.

Galloping Grocer, the 6-5 favorite, finished third - beaten one length - but was put up to second. Galloping Grocer, however, will be the subject of an appeal by Jennifer Pedersen, the trainer of Pavo. Pedersen claims the reason Garcia lost his irons was because Galloping Grocer bumped him down the backside.

While the Gotham had plenty of action, it was unclear what affect it will have on the Kentucky Derby picture. Survivalist's trainer, Shug McGaughey, while naturally pleased that he won, has reservations whether Survivalist, a son of Danzig, wants the 1 1/4 miles of the Kentucky Derby. Survivalist ran the one-mile Gotham in 1:35.61 and returned $8.90 to win.

"He'd have to prove it to me," said McGaughey, who won three races on the day. "I like the way he finished up today, of course, but how far he's going to run I don't know."

Survivalist was the beneficiary of a wicked pace that saw Distinctive Trick and Lieutenant Danz battle through a half-mile in 44.59 seconds. Galloping Grocer rated nicely in third under Mike Luzzi, and advanced three wide toward the lead approaching the quarter pole. Meanwhile, an ironless Garcia was advancing Pavo right outside of Galloping Grocer.

Pavo struck the front inside the eighth pole and appeared to brush with a game Galloping Grocer to his inside. Survivalist, meanwhile, appeared to brush with Naughty New Yorker in midstretch, causing Survivalist to come out. Survivalist came in again, and Naughty New Yorker wound up right behind Pavo, and Garcia's whip hit Naughty New Yorker in the face.

Jean Luc Samyn, Naughty New Yorker's rider, claimed foul against Survivalist, but after a quick look at the replay said it may have been Garcia's fault.

"Quickly looking at the replay, it looked like [Garcia] hit me with the stick, but I have to review, because many here in the jocks' room said it looks like I got hit from both sides,'' Samyn said.

Survivalist's jockey, Richard Migliore, who won four races on the card, said, "I don't feel like we did anything but run hard.''

Survivalist, Galloping Grocer, and Naughty New Yorker are all likely to run back in the Wood Memorial on April 9.