02/26/2002 12:00AM

Ground Storm rolls toward Stymie


JAMAICA, N.Y. - With Evening Attire forced to miss the March 9 Stymie Handicap because of illness, the favorite's role for that $100,000, Grade 3 race might fall to Ground Storm. On Tuesday, the 6-year-old Ground Storm gave an indication that he would wear the title well.

In his last serious workout before the Stymie, breezed five furlongs in 1:02.33 over Belmont's training track, the third-quickest of 10 moves at the distance. Track clockers caught Ground Storm's last three furlongs in 35.67 seconds, and got him galloping out five furlongs in 1:15.60.

Ground Storm, a son of Summer Squall, has had a productive winter for trainer Bill Mott. He sandwiched two sharp allowance wins around a second-place finish behind Evening Attire in the Aqueduct Handicap. Tuesday's workout, conducted in blinkers, was Ground Storm's third workout since his 4 3/4-length allowance win on Feb. 3.

"He's just sustaining his weight, everything is staying right where you want it," said Seth Benzel, Mott's New York assistant. "It almost seems like he's gained weight between these races, which is a fantastic sign."

Benzel also credits jockey Javier Castellano for Ground Storm's recent success. Benzel said Castellano has ridden Ground Storm with more and more confidence, something Benzel says the horse is sensing.

"He's been a horse where that rider-horse relationship is real important," Benzel said. "Javier's done a good job."

Ground Storm might work an easy half-mile next week.

A total of 17 horses were nominated to the Stymie, run at nine furlongs. Among those projected to run are Coyote Lakes, Pleasant Divorce, Private Ryan, and possibly Wild Summer.

People's Princess and Point Given

People's Princess, winner of the Grade 3 Rare Treat Handicap on Feb. 18, has been retired, Benzel said. She left her Belmont Park barn on Tuesday and was vanned to Mill Ridge Farm in Kentucky where she will be bred next month to Point Given, who was recently crowned Horse of the Year.

People's Princess, a 6-year-old daughter of Meadowlake-Cassowary, by Cormorant, had a record of 7-5-2 from 17 starts and earned $339,175 for The Thoroughbred Corp.

Bema blazes in blinkers

Bema, a beaten odds-on favorite in a second-level allowance race here on Feb. 14, whistled three furlongs in 34.51 seconds Tuesday in preparation for Saturday's $75,000 Busher Stakes. The work was the fastest by 1.38 seconds of 20 three-furlong moves on Belmont's training track.

Bema, a 3-year-old daughter of Pulpit, was working in blinkers and will wear them for the first time in a race on Saturday.

"She was just aggressive," said Buzz Tenney, assistant to trainer Shug McGaughey. "She knew what she was going to do. Leaving the half-mile pole she got pretty strong. She galloped out good and came back fine."

Tenney said that Bema "ran in spots" during her race on Feb. 14. In the stretch, she saw the starting gate off to the side and "got to gawking around and almost propped or stopped," Tenney said. "You hope the blinkers will take care of all that."

Affirmed Success aimed at Toboggan

Affirmed Success, the third-place finisher in the General George Handicap, will be pointed to the $100,000 Toboggan Handicap on March 16.

"The Toboggan's a possibility, if we get a decent pull in the weights," trainer Richard Schosberg said.

Affirmed Success came out of the General George in good order, Schosberg said. While he did not think Affirmed Success could have beaten Wrangler, he was disappointed Affirmed Success did not get second.

"We got parked out in the middle of the track with Here's Zealous inside of us really bearing out," Schosberg said. "That and the 10-pound weight shift cost us second money."

If Affirmed Success runs in the Toboggan, it would be the first ungraded stakes in which he has competed in his career. Affirmed Success has run in 27 graded events, winning seven.