07/04/2002 11:00PM

Heavyweight Champ back racing


ELMONT, N.Y. - Heavyweight Champ, stakes-placed in three graded races last year, makes his 3-year-old debut at Belmont Park in Sunday's seventh race, a second-level allowance. Heavyweight Champ meets six rivals in the six-furlong race.

Last year, Heavyweight Champ, a speedy Two Punch colt, won two of six starts, with both wins coming at Belmont. He also finished third in the Grade 1 Champagne, second in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, and third in the Grade 2 Sanford.

Following Heavyweight Champ's fifth in the Hollywood Prevue in November. The colt's trainer, John Terranova, gave him the winter off. Terranova had intended for Heavyweight Champ to begin his 2002 campaign earlier, but one thing or another kept the colt away from the races, until now. One of the holdups was that Heavyweight Champ's exercise rider, Simon Harris, was injured and missed several weeks on the sidelines.

Terranova said Harris is key to Heavyweight Champ's training because he is an extremely aggressive horse in his morning gallops and breezes.

"He needs finesse; you can't manhandle him," Harris said.

Terranova said he hopes to see something "positive" from Heavyweight Champ in his return so he could look ahead to races such as the Grade 2 Amsterdam and the Grade 1 King's Bishop in August at Saratoga.

"This race, more or less gets him back in the starting gate," Terranova said. "He's done well getting to this point and has been training really well. We're looking to move forward off this race."

Heavyweight Champ worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.13 on Wednesday. Jerry Bailey rides Heavyweight Champ, who drew the rail.

Well Fancied and Gold Shark appear to be Heavyweight Champ's chief threats.

Son on the rise

Trainer Randy Schulhofer, who won his first New York stakes with Owsley on Thursday in the New York Handicap, hopes to keep the momentum going next weekend.

Schulhofer is pointing three horses to a pair of grass stakes, the $150,000 Bowling Green on Saturday and the $150,000 Lexington on Sunday. Schulhofer will run Whitmore's Conn in the Grade 2 Bowling Green, a 1 3/8-mile race, and Irish Colonial and Union Place in the Grade 3 Lexington at 1 1/4 miles.

Whitmore's Conn, a New York-bred, picked up checks in a few stakes last year, including third-place finishes in both the Lexington and Grade 3 Lawrence Realization.

Schulhofer said Whitmore's Conn, a 4-year-old son of Kris S., is eligible to step up and win a stakes one of these days. This year, the colt has won two open allowance races.

"He's been knocking on the door," Schulhofer said. "He's gotten better as he has gotten older, and he runs good the farther he goes."

Union Place, fourth in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park this winter, worked sharply on Friday at Belmont. The 3-year-old covered five furlongs over the main track in a bullet 59.69 seconds, handily, before the renovation break. The next-fastest work at the distance was 1:00.14.

Schulhofer, 40, took over for his father, Hall of Fame trainer, Scotty Schulhofer, when he retired last December at 75. The younger Schulhofer said he speaks to his father, who lives in Florida, two to three times a day.

"I run things by him a lot," Schulhofer said.

Tempered success

When Mark Hennig saddles Gygistar, one of the top choices in Sunday's $150,000 Dwyer, he will be seeking his 17th stakes win in 2002. Ten of the 16 stakes won by Hennig were graded events.

Hennig, among the top 10 trainers in the country in earnings with more than $3.1 million, also has had his share of bad luck this year.

Among the blows Hennig was dealt was the death of Gygistar's half-sister, Pleasant County, who fractured her skull in a spill on Belmont Stakes Day. Brooklyn winner Seeking Daylight, who would have been among the favorites in Saturday's Suburban, fractured a cannon bone on Thursday and was scheduled to have surgery on Friday.

Hennig said the media pays more attention to a stakes horse who is injured, but he said the disappointment is just the same for him when any horse in his barn gets hurt.

"They're all hard to take because you feel for the horse," Hennig said.