04/26/2006 12:00AM

Hertler will try to beat an old friend

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Forgive John Hertler if he accidentally walks into the wrong saddling stall just prior to Friday's fourth race at Aqueduct.

Hertler will be in the paddock to tighten the girth on , a New York-bred whom Hertler received last fall and has run twice, including a victory in the Cormorant division of the New York Stallion Stakes. In the next stall, however, will be Dave, a fellow New York-bred whom Hertler saddled 21 times, including a stakes win in the West Point Handicap last August.

Retribution and Dave head the field of seven entered in a third-level allowance race scheduled for one mile on Aqueduct's turf course. The $50,000 race also carries an optional claiming clause of $75,000, and four of the seven runners are in for the tag.

Last summer at Saratoga, Hertler won two races in four days with Dave, including the West Point Handicap. He beat Certifiably Crazy in that race, and Certifiably Crazy was just voted New York-bred turf champion for 2005.

Dave's owner, Joe Gerrity, died last year. Prior to his death, Gerrity gave Dave to his secretary, who in turn sold the horse. Dave was purchased by Partingglass Stable and turned over to Barclay Tagg.

"He's going to haunt me," Hertler said of Dave. "He's not going away."

After turning him out for a good part of the winter, Tagg brought Dave to Gulfstream Park, where he shows a series of solid works, including a five-furlong move in 59.80 seconds and a six-furlong gate move in 1:12.80.

"He's training well, we'll give it a shot," said Tagg, who has Pablo Morales named to ride. "He likes it hard and fast, so it'll probably be wet and soft."

Retribution was turned out following a sixth-place finish in an open second-level allowance race over this course in November. That was his 13th race of the year, and was run over a course labeled good.

Though Retribution shows only two works for this, Hertler said the horse did work five furlongs a couple of times on the farm in Ocala. Hertler is removing the blinkers from Retribution in hopes of taking some of the speed out of the gelding.

"He's so fast, I figure if he's going to relax at all maybe he'll do it without the blinkers," Hertler said. "It's an experiment."

was inhibited by a slow start when he ran last in the Lure. His two races prior to that were both good and he has won over this course. Dashboard Drummer, No Parole, Chilly Rooster, and Si O No complete the field.