04/22/2005 12:00AM

'Grocer' drops into restricted stakes race

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After an unsuccessful attempt to join the Triple Crown trail, Galloping Grocer returns to restricted stakes company Sunday when he heads an eight-horse field entered in the $150,000 Times Square Stakes at Aqueduct. Only progeny of New York-based stallions are eligible for this one-mile race.

Galloping Grocer was voted the New York-bred champion 2-year-old of 2004, beating statebreds in three starts by a combined 31 3/4 lengths. He established himself as a potential Kentucky Derby candidate by running a good second to Rockport Harbor in the Grade 2 Remsen.

could not strengthen his Derby credentials in three starts at 3, losing the Whirlaway, Gotham, and Wood Memorial. In the April 9 Wood, he finished 26 1/4 lengths behind Bellamy Road.

While trainer Dominick Schettino admits to being concerned wheeling back Galloping Grocer in two weeks, he's hoping the class drop will offset that.

"Honestly, that's a concern," Schettino said about the quick turnaround. "But he's doing good. The race is worth $150,000 and he's going to be the favorite, so it's a little tough to pass up."

Galloping Grocer was taken well off the pace in the Wood. Schettino said Galloping Grocer would likely return to his free-running ways in the Times Square. "He likes to be in the fight early. He likes to be close," said Schettino, who has named Edgar Prado to ride.

Galloping Grocer will encounter other quality speed horses in the field, including Gold and Roses and Summerland.

has two wins and two seconds since adding blinkers, and comes off a sharp front-running win in an entry-level allowance.

"He's had two very nice works for the race and he's coming to this race great," trainer Tom Bush said.

Summerland finished fifth in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes on Feb. 19. Trainer Rick Violette said he erred in instructing Shaun Bridgmohan to take him off the pace and that Summerland injured a foot in the race as well.

has been training exceptionally well leading up to this. "Going a flat mile I would think we'll be on the lead," said Violette. "He's run well that way; he's been hooked and continued on. We're going to be there to anybody else's peril that wants to hook us."

Accurate and Twooutsintheninth are the best closers in the race.