04/11/2002 11:00PM

Hess no longer restricted to one coast

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JAMAICA, N.Y. - Trainer Bob Hess Jr. has shipped the occasional horse to New York, as he is doing with Spring Meadow for Sunday's $100,000-added Comely. But until this year, Hess, who is based in Southern California, never maintained a division in New York.

Hess, 36, said Friday he plans on keeping at least a half-dozen horses here for the summer meets at Belmont Park and Saratoga. Some of those horses will be the top runners in Hess's barn. Hess said Azillion, the Spiral runner-up scheduled to run in Saturday's Blue Grass at Keeneland, and D'wildcat, last year's Swale winner entered at Keeneland on Sunday in the $250,000 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup, are candidates for New York stakes. Another Hess stakes winner, Penny Marie, is being pointed to the $150,000 Vagrancy at Belmont Park on June 9.

"The quality of my stable is improving and I've always thought the best meets in the country are Santa Anita, Keeneland, Belmont, and Saratoga," said Hess of his decision to have a division in New York.

Hess already has won with the first horse he sent to New York this year. A. J.'s Band, a Dixieland Band colt, captured a New York-bred maiden race by five lengths at Aqueduct on April 3. Hess said A. J.'s Band, a 4-year-old, will remain here to take advantage of New York's lucrative statebred program. A. J.'s Band is owned by Fog City Stable, the owners of Spring Meadow and D'wildcat.

Carrero returns as good as new

Victor Carrero, a promising five-pound apprentice who broke his ankle in a gate mishap last October in New York, wasted little time finding the winner's circle when he returned to action on April 6.

Carrero, 21, rode at Philadelphia Park for four days, winning with two of 13 starters, before moving to Aqueduct on Wednesday, where he rode two winners from four mounts. Through Friday's card, Carrero has a record of 3-2-1 in 13 mounts at the Big A.

There is never a good time for a rider to suffer an injury, but Carrero's broken ankle couldn't have come at a more inopportune moment.

Before he was sidelined, Carrero, whose mounts earned $2.7 million last year, had the necessary momentum on his side to be a strong force at Aqueduct's inner track meet. After finishing third at the Monmouth Park meet, Carrero was fourth in the standings at The Meadowlands when he fractured his left ankle in a starting gate accident before the start of a race at Belmont Park on Oct. 21. Surgery was required and a plate and five screws were inserted to fuse together the break.

Carrero, who won his first race in his native Puerto Rico at El Comandante on Jan. 10 last year, said he would like to remain in New York for the summer.

Without a standout apprentice in residence, Carrero's services figure to be in demand.

"If I do the right job, I hope to gain the confidence of trainers and get the mounts," Carrero, whose English is limited, said through an interpreter.

Since the injury knocked him out of action for more than five months, Carrero's apprentice allowance has been extended to Sept. 25.

- A small field is taking shape for next Saturday's $150,000-added Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup. Among the expected starters is last year's runner-up, Critical Eye, who will be making her 2002 debut in the Grade 3 Bed o' Roses. Other fillies and mares listed as probable for the mile race are Atelier, Belle Artiste, Pleasant County, and Raging Fever. Weights for the Bed o' Roses will be released Sunday.