01/05/2011 5:31PM

Hushion is laid up, but his stable is on a roll

Alyssa Spakowski/EQUI-PHOTO
Harissa win Tuesday's $75,000 Sleigh Ride Stakes at Parx Racing by 4 3/4 lengths.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Mike Hushion may be ailing these days, but his stable is doing just fine.

Hushion, who had to spend the holidays in the hospital after suffering a ruptured and infected appendix, won two stakes in a four-day period with horses that, up until last summer, were based in Southern California. On Saturday, Nicole H won the $65,000 Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct. On Tuesday, Harissa won the $75,000 Sleigh Ride Stakes at Parx Racing by 4 3/4 lengths.

Those fillies are the only two horses Hushion trains for Dr. John Waken’s GEM Racing, which races primarily in Southern California with trainer David Hofmans and includes the promising 3-year-old prospect J P’s Gusto.

Waken’s stable is managed by Equine Prep, a bloodstock operation headed by Steve Bajer and John O’Hara. Equine Prep’s only other client is Marc Ferrell, who last year sent horses to Hushion including stakes winners Tidal Dance, Goldsville, and Fiddler’s Afleet as well as the multiple allowance winner Wind Caper.

O’Hara said the common thread with all those horses was the belief that they would perform better on dirt than on the synthetic surfaces utilized in California (prior to Santa Anita switching back to dirt). Since moving East, Nicole H has won three of five starts, while Harissa is 2 for 3, with a third in the Indiana Oaks.

Both horses could be pointed to the Grade 2, $150,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park on Feb. 19.

“We’re tickled to death with what Mike’s done,” said O’Hara, noting the quintet of Fiddler’s Afleet, Goldsville, Tidal Dance, Harissa, and Nicole H have accounted for eight stakes wins. “It’s been an unbelievable joy to work with Mike. He’s very communicative, he keeps us up to date, so there are no surprises.”

O’Hara said that Goldsville, who won the Grade 3 Excelsior over Aqueduct’s main track in April, is nearly ready to return to Hushion, while Fiddler’s Afleet, who won the Oklahoma Derby in 2009 but went winless in two starts in 2010, is about a month away from being sent to Hushion. Neither has raced since the spring due to physical issues.

O’Hara said Hushion could be sent more horses from Waken, including Honey Bunch, a 3-year-old daughter of Cherokee Run who won a maiden race in June, and a New York-bred 3-year-old colt.

In his absence, Hushion’s stable is being overseen by Graham Wolfram, who Hushion called “the best assistant on the grounds.” Hushion said he hopes to return to the barn next week.

Rodriguez aims two for Toboggan

The Grade 3, $100,000 Toboggan Stakes, a six-furlong race run over the inner track on Jan. 22, is the only graded stakes run here for two months, and trainer Rudy Rodriguez plans to be well-represented with Endless Circle and Temecula Creek.

Endless Circle, owned by Vincent Scuderi and James Riccio, has won 5 of 8 starts for Rodriguez since being claimed for $14,000 on April 16. After winning the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap over the main track on Thanksgiving Day, Endless Circle finished third in the Gravesend here Dec. 1

“We may have brought him back too soon,” said Rodriguez, referring to the 23 days between races. “He ran a big race in the Fall Highweight.”

Endless Circle breezed four furlongs in 48.21 seconds Wednesday morning over the inner track.

Temecula Creek, owned by Steve Speranza and Robert Joscelyn, has won 6 of 10 starts since being claimed for $7,500 on March 6. He has won his last two, including the Valley Forge Stakes at Parx Racing on Dec. 7.

“Unless something easier comes up in between, I’m pointing both for that race,” Rodriguez said.

Also likely for the Toboggan is Calibrachoa, who won the Gravesend for Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole.

Rodriguez has two for feature

Rodriguez will send out an uncoupled entry of Bwana Babe and Lady Durlyn in Friday’s feature, an optional claimer/second-level allowance race at a mile. Both fillies are being offered for the $50,000 claiming price.

Bwana Babe, who reeled off four consecutive wins at Tampa Bay and Monmouth earlier this year, finished third to Shine Upon in a one-turn mile over the main track Nov. 18. Shine Upon came back to win the Jena Jena Stakes in her next start. Fernando Jara rides Bwana Babe.

Lady Durlyn won a $25,000 claimer going 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth in her most recent start. Cornelio Velasquez rides.

Electric Gold, Proud Zoe, and Malibu Legacy are other contenders in this seven-horse field.

Amended training hours at Aqueduct

With the construction of a casino at Aqueduct in full swing inside and outside, training hours will be amended at Aqueduct for the next six weeks.

Beginning next week, there will be no training on Mondays. Training hours Tuesday through Sunday will end at 9 a.m., 45 minutes earlier than normal. Aqueduct’s jogging barn will be open from 9 -10 a.m.

These hours will be in place through Feb. 28.

Horsemen say they will gladly deal with the inconvenience of shortened training hours in order to get the long-awaited casino up and operating as early as possible.

“Give me a casino or give me death!” said Gary Contessa, who is based at Aqueduct. “I’m okay with it. The horses will be happier. I’ll let them all know they can go home on Sunday night and visit their relatives.”

The first phase of Resorts World New York, which ultimately will house more than 4,500 slot machines, is scheduled to be completed in the spring.

The outdoor work includes the demolition of the seats in the grandstand. Ultimately, there will be one level deck on which fans can walk out onto from the casino to watch the races.