07/11/2002 12:00AM

Hall of Famer's son making his own name


ELMONT, N.Y. - When Randy Schulhofer took over the training duties from his father, Scotty, at the beginning of the year, he said he felt a little pressure to continue the winning legacy his Hall of Fame dad had established.

So far, so he has handled the pressure just fine.

Entering the weekend, Randy Schulhofer had won with 19 of 78 starters (24 percent) this year, including a 7-for-35 mark at the Belmont spring-summer meet. Included among those seven winners was Owsley, who gave Schulhofer his first New York graded stakes victory when she won the Grade 2 New York Handicap on July 4.

"It's just worked out really well," Schulhofer said Thursday. "There was a little pressure, but right from the beginning things started falling into place, which took a little pressure off. Of course, when you win there's more pressure to keep wining."

This weekend, Schulhofer hopes to be a major player in the stakes at Belmont, sending out Whitmore's Conn in Saturday's $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap and the uncoupled entry of Irish Colonial and Union Place in Sunday's $150,000 Lexington Stakes. Both are Grade 3 events on grass.

"They've got me stamped as a turf trainer, but it's just the way it has worked out this year," Schulhofer said. "And I'll take it; that's just fine."

Schulhofer believes he's sending out legitimate contenders in both stakes. Whitmore's Conn is a New York-bred who has recorded three of his four career wins against open company.

In four starts this year for Schulhofer, Whitmore's Conn has two wins, a second, and a sixth. The sixth came in the Kingston Handicap, where Whitmore's Conn was saddled with an outside post, raced closer to the pace than usual, and was caught wide around both turns under Shaun Bridgmohan. Still, he was beaten only four lengths.

Whitmore's Conn is coming off a second-place finish behind Eltawaasul in a June 21 allowance race.

"I told Shaun last time, 'Let's go back to our old style: take him back and make one run,' and it worked out pretty good," said Schulhofer, who thinks the 1 3/8 miles of the Bowling Green will aid Whitmore's Conn.

On Sunday, Union Place looks to be the stronger of the two Schulhofer entrants in the Lexington for 3-year-olds, run at 10 furlongs.

A son of Out of Place, Union Place has a win and a second from three starts since coming to Schulhofer's barn over the winter in Florida. While finishing fourth in the Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream in February, Union Place popped a splint and was out for four months. He returned with a solid second-place finish behind the Bill Mott-trained Spotted Owl in a second-level allowance race here on June 12.

Schulhofer's only concern with Union Place is whether he can get the 10 furlongs.

"That's going to be a little bit of a question," he said. "With the right kind of pace, who knows?"

Irish Colonial, a New York-bred son of Colonial Affair, will step into open company, where he has not had much success.

"We want to give him a chance to see where he stands with the 3-year-olds," Schulhofer said. "He's still eligible for two-other-than New York-bred. The distance might really help him, being by Colonial Affair."

As Randy Schulhofer has already shown, pedigree can go a long way.

Puzzlement to return at Saratoga

Puzzlement, the Peter Pan runnerup, who was scratched out of the Belmont Stakes with a foot abscess, breezed six furlongs in 1:14.02 Thursday morning over Belmont's main track.

"He's doing fine," trainer Allen Jerkens said. "He'll be ready for Saratoga, we hope."

Jerkens did not necessarily mean that Puzzlement would make his next start in the Jim Dandy on Aug. 4. "If there's an allowance race when we get to Saratoga, then we'll run him in that," said Jerkens, noting that Puzzlement is still eligible for second-level allowance races.

* Jockey Aaron Gryder took off his final two mounts Thursday, complaining of back pain. Apparently, Gryder felt some pain Wednesday, but tried to go Thursday, riding his first two mounts. He went to first-aid following his ride aboard Arromanches in the fourth race, and doctors said he was experiencing back spasms and took him off his remaining mounts. Gryder was expected to consult with his family doctor before deciding whether to ride Friday.

* Saratoga's main track opens for training on Saturday. The barn area surrounding the main track opens on Sunday.

* Saratoga will once again host its annual open house, on July 21 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The open house allows fans to familiarize themselves with the track and enjoy several non-wagering exhibition races. Concessions are provided by local non-profit organizations.