01/19/2006 12:00AM

Happy Hunting gets his chance

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Winner of an allowance race last month, Colita will try for the ninth time to win his first stakes race in Saturday's Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - As the son of two Grade 1 winners, Happy Hunting was expected to be stakes-caliber himself. Saturday, the lightly raced 5-year-old gets his first opportunity to become a stakes winner when he runs in the Grade 3, $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap.

, a son of Seeking the Gold and Furlough, will meet seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Aqueduct Handicap, including the 8-year-old Evening Attire, who won this race in 2002.

Though 5, Happy Hunting has only made eight starts in his career. He cracked a hind cannon bone as a 3-year-old and didn't get to the races until last June. After losing his first three starts, Happy Hunting has won 4 of 5 since getting blinkers.

Happy Hunting is coming off a 1 1/4-length score over the inner track last month. Norberto Arroyo Jr. rode him for the first time in that race, one in which Happy Hunting sat off the speed-crazy With Probability before taking command on the far turn. The only disconcerting part of the race is how Happy Hunting drifted out in the stretch.

"He was a little rank the first part of the race," Arroyo said. "When the other horse went, I put him behind that horse and he settled. When I took him out from behind that other horse he got rank again. After that he was kind of waiting for the horses down the lane."

Trainer Shug McGaughey elected to ship Happy Hunting to south Florida for the winter where he put in four workouts at Gulfstream Park before shipping back here earlier in the week.

After carrying a minimum of 122 pounds in all his prior starts, Happy Hunting gets in with a feathery 114 Saturday.

Happy Hunting figures to stalk , who looms the main speed in the race under Orlando Mojica. Trainer John Toscano said Sinister G had a respiratory infection last summer and the horse needed his last race, a fourth-place finish in an allowance race on Jan. 5.

and Evening Attire are the primary late threats. Colita, who is winless in eight stakes tries, looked good winning an allowance race last month. It was his first start since undergoing throat surgery.

finished fourth in the Queens County Handicap after getting off to a slow start. Trainer Pat Kelly said he stood Evening Attire in the gate on Wednesday, but makes no guarantees that will help.

"He's 8 years old," Kelly said. "He does what he does."

Knox, Mr. Whitestone, Spite the Devil, and Broad Acres complete the field.