05/28/2001 11:00PM

Gratiaen has a far easier task

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The last time Gratiaen ran, he had the misfortune of meeting E Dubai, who rolled home a 12 1/2-length winner and then came back to finish second as the heavy favorite in last weekend's Peter Pan.

Gratiaen can breath a little easier, because he won't face any bears like E Dubai in Thursday's eighth race, a third-level allowance for 3-year-olds and older. The feature is the anchor race in the pick 6, which has a $56,458 carryover.

Six entered the 1 1/16-mile race, which carries a $48,000 purse.

When Gratiaen finished second to E Dubai on May 11, it was the 4-year-old Gratiaen's first race since since he finished seventh in last October's Empire Classic. Gratiaen, a New York-bred who is owned and was bred by the late Jerry Brody's Gallagher's Stud, won four consecutive races last year, including the Albany Handicap for state-breds.

Richard Schosberg, who trains Gratiaen, said he was pleased by his colt's 2001 debut.

"That was a pretty good horse that beat him," Schosberg said, referring to E Dubai. "We tried him at the quarter pole like [Gratiaen] meant to catch him, but didn't have enough horsepower. He should move forward off that effort."

Edgar Prado returns on Gratiaen from post 3.

Regal Shivers, the lone 3-year-old in the field, gets five pounds from his older rivals, who carry 121 pounds. Trained by Nick Zito, Regal Shivers showed little in both the Gotham and Withers after winning the Whirlaway by 5 3/4 lengths in February.

Regal Shivers, who was ridden by J.J. Castellano in his last four races, has the services of Jerry Bailey on Thursday. Regal Shivers drew the outside post.

Call It Off has run three good races in a row, including an allowance win at 1 1/16 miles in one of the Super Track Racing Series races at Gulfstream Park on March 10. Trained by Mark Hennig, Call It Off returned to finish second in an April 12 allowance at Aqueduct and and then won a similar race there 17 days later.

Taking Sides makes his first start for Juan Serey, who claimed him for $50,000 on May 17. Taking Sides cleaned up at Aqueduct this winter, winning three of five races over the inner track, but has only one win in seven starts at Belmont.

Un Fino Vino hasn't won since taking a second-level allowance in January 2000. The nearest Un Fino Vino has come to winning in seven starts since then was a neck loss at this level in December at Aqueduct.