11/28/2003 12:00AM

Gygistar gears up for Gulfstream

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Grade 1 winner Gygistar, who has suffered more than his share of setbacks during his career, is working toward a return to the races following a viral infection.

Gygistar worked four furlongs in 48.99 seconds at Belmont Park on Thursday and likely will make his comeback in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector at Gulfstream Park on opening day, Jan. 3.

Thursday's work was the 4-year-old Gygistar's first since Oct. 26. He was being pointed to the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 25 when he came down with a high fever two days before pre-entries were taken. Last year, Gygistar missed the Sprint because of a foot injury.

Trainer Mark Hennig worked Gygistar on Oct. 26 because he thought the virus had cleared the horse's system.

"The day he worked, he got depressed again," Hennig said. "His blood was out of whack and at that point we decided to give him more time and commit ourselves to bringing him back at Gulfstream. He is doing fine now. We have learned how to roll with the punches where he is concerned."

Since winning the Riva Ridge, Dwyer, and King's Bishop in succession last year, Gygistar has raced sparingly because of various physical ailments. He won an allowance race this year on July 25 at Saratoga and followed with a third in the Grade 1 Forego later in the meet. In his last start on Sept. 27, Gygistar finished fourth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont.

Hennig said Gygistar would leave for Gulfstream on Monday.

Arroyo changes his mind about winter plans

Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr., the leading rider in New York in 2000, has had a change of heart.

Two weeks ago, Arroyo announced he would leave New York on Dec. 1 to ride the reminder of the Calder meet and then switch his tack to Gulfstream for the winter. Friday at Aqueduct, Arroyo said he would remain in New York and ride the inner-track meet, which begins Wednesday.

One of the reasons Arroyo changed his mind is that he got on a roll and won seven races after announcing his plans to winter in Florida.

"Basically, business is good here and I think I can be really tough for leading jockey at the meet," said Arroyo, who won Friday's seventh race. "I want to take a shot at it. I had to reconsider. Going to Florida is something I can think about next year."

Jose Rivera, Arroyo's third agent since he returned from a back injury earlier this fall, will book his mounts. Arroyo had engaged Angel Cordero Jr. to represent him in Florida.

Contessa serves shortened suspension

Trainer Gary Contessa began serving a 10-day suspension on Saturday for a lidocaine positive on one of his runners, Tuesday Prayer. Because Contessa waived his right to appeal, the original 20-day suspension was reduced to 10 by the Aqueduct stewards, who noted in their ruling that the penalty is reflective of information based on veterinary records kept on Tuesday Prayer.

Lidocaine, which is used as a blocking agent, was injected into the 2-year-old Tuesday Prayer when she underwent a caslick operation. The surgery is commonly performed on fillies and involves the suturing of a portion of the vagina to prevent the intake of air, which could lead to urinary-tract infections.

Contessa said he scheduled the operation with his veterinarian - whom he declined to identify - so it would not conflict with Tuesday Prayer's racing schedule. Unbeknownst to Contessa, the operation took place at a later date and Tuesday Prayer still had the presence of lidocaine in her system when she ran on Sept. 21 at Belmont and finished third.

"Quite simply it was a mistake on my vet's part and I'm responsible under the trainer's responsibility rule," Contessa said. "I'm extremely grateful to the stewards for the way they handled the whole thing. The stewards have become really good in the way they judge positives because they take everything into consideration."

During Contessa's suspension, his horses will run in the name of his assistant, Frank Amonte.

In June, Contessa served a 20-day suspension after eight of his horses tested positive for ephedrine, which was present in trace levels in a feed supplement he used.

Extended vacation for Bossanova

Bossanova, the gate-to-wire winner of Thursday's Grade 3 Fall Highweight, will receive a freshening, with the Grade 1 Carter on April 10 at Aqueduct as one of his first objectives in 2004.

Jim Bond, Bossanova's trainer, said he was delighted that the headstrong Bossanova relaxed through a first quarter-mile in 22.88 seconds in the Fall Highweight.

"He usually goes gangbusters because he just has to go," Bond said. "Edgar [Prado] did a great job with him."

Mike Hushion, the trainer of Papua, the Fall Highweight runner-up, lamented that Bossanova set a moderate first quarter-mile. Papua was closing strongly, but fell short a half-length of catching Bossanova at the wire.

"When the fastest horse on the grounds goes 22 and 4, on a track playing to speed, it makes life a little difficult," Hushion said. "Our horse kicked on, but [Bossanova] kicked on again because he had something left."

Hushion said the $100,000 Gravesend Dec. 21 might come up too quickly for Papua's next race, but he will consider the next sprint stakes on the calendar, the $75,000 Paumonok on Jan. 24.

* Beginning Wednesday, the New York Racing Association will change its purse distribution so that horses finishing below fifth place will earn a portion of the purse. To allow for 2 percent of the purse to be divided equally among horses finishing sixth or worse, earnings for third- and fourth-place finishers will drop by 1 percentage point to 10 and 5 percent, respectively. The division of purses for first-, second-, and fifth-place finishers will remain the same.