03/24/2006 1:00AM

Jockeys race comes down to wire for Coa, Dominguez

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Achilles of Troy will likely make his next start in the Arkansas Derby.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The fight for the jockey title adds an element of drama to the final weekend on the inner track at Aqueduct.

Eibar Coa and Ramon Dominguez are locked in a tight battle, with Coa leading, 101-97, through Friday. The inner-track meet concludes Sunday, and racing shifts back to the main track Wednesday.

The riding title would be the first in New York for either rider. Of the two, Dominguez is more excited about the battle.

"You try not to, but you can't help but get excited," said Dominguez. "You keep looking forward to riding and winning the next race. I am glad to be in the position that I am in. It would mean a lot to me, winning a title in New York."

By contrast, Coa, who rode four winners Friday to reach 100 wins, said he is not getting caught up in the title chase.

"I was expecting to have a good meet, and I did," he said. "Getting 100 wins was important. Whatever happens at the end won't affect me mentally. I know that I have already done a good job."

Dominguez needed a strong late push to make this a race. He arrived a month into the meet to find Coa had already built a 20-win cushion.

For Coa, coming to New York in the winter was a business decision that paid off, even though he says he misses the warmth of Florida and the chance to ride promising young horses at Gulfstream Park.

"I won't have any of those horses," he said. "I've got to try and work my way onto those horses when they come back here.

"One of the reasons I stayed was to build business from the people who stay here all year long," he said. "They want someone they can count on all the time."

Both riders will ride the start of the Big A's main-track meet. Dominguez could return to Delaware Park, where he has dominated in recent seasons. That meet begins April 22.

"It's a decision my agent and I still have to make," Dominguez said, referring to Steve Rushing. "We plan to sit down and discuss it once this meet is over, to weigh our options. We could go back to Delaware Park or stay here, which would be a great opportunity."

Achilles of Troy gallops on track

Achilles of Troy returned to the track at Aqueduct on Friday morning, and members of the Paraneck Stable released the collective breath they had been holding since he was vanned off following the Gotham Stakes on March 18.

What appeared a major disaster for Achilles of Troy might be no more than a bump on the road to the Triple Crown.

"I'm real relieved today, especially after I saw him vanned off," said trainer Frank Amonte Jr. "I was bugging out. My mind was shot."

Dominguez pulled up Achilles of Troy after a trouble-filled race, amid fears Achilles of Troy had suffered a foot injury. There was a little heat in the left front foot and a superficial cut on the hoof, but the major problem, according to Amonte, was back spasms.

"We worked on that and he seemed fine," said Amonte. "He went out and galloped beautifully today."

Amonte said Achilles of Troy will likely make his next start in the Arkansas Derby on April 15 and could have a workout as early next week.

Manchurian euthanized after race

Manchurian, upset winner of the Stymie Handicap here in his previous start for trainer Todd Pletcher, broke down in the third race Friday. Manchurian suffered fractures of both right-front sesamoids and was euthanized.

Jockey Mike Luzzi was taken to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., for X-rays of his back.

Coa won with a pair of Luzzi mounts that came open: Ice Chief in the fourth and Cosmos Mariner in the sixth.

* Coa got his fourth winner Friday, when he guided Last Romance ($14.40) to a 5 1/2-length victory in the $62,000 Wayward Lass Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

It was the first stakes win and third career victory for Last Romance, who is trained by Richard Dutrow Jr.