11/19/2007 12:00AM

Joey P. tests weight-carrying ability

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - The Fall Highweight Handicap on Thursday at Aqueduct is a throwback to an era when horses routinely carried substantial weight in handicap events.

The Fall Highweight on Thanksgiving kicks off HolidayFest, a series of stakes that include the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Saturday.

The assignments for the $100,000 Fall Highweight at six furlongs range from a low of 126 pounds for Debussy to 134 for Park Avenue Ball.

The heavier than normal imposts was one of the incentives that lured Joey P. He is always the one to beat in the New Jersey-bred sprint handicaps at Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands Racetrack, where he routinely carries top weight.

Having proven his ability to successfully carry 125 pounds to victory this summer in the Colts Neck and Friendly Lover handicaps at Monmouth, Joey P. should be able to handle his 131-pound assignment.

Compare that to Bishop Court Hill, who toted only 115 in his win in Aqueduct's Grade 1 Carter Handicap in 2006 and most recently carried 118 in an allowance race at Woodbine. He must carry 133 in the Fall Highweight.

"We always had it in the back of our minds when we thought about this race that he has always done well carrying weight," said Ben Perkins Jr., Joey P.'s trainer. "He's a big, strong horse and it seems like he carries the weight okay. I don't know if that gives him an edge, but he's proved he can be successful doing it."

Joey P. is closing out another solid season. He has won 4 of 10 this year, most recently missing by a neck in the slop against open company in the Monmouth University Stakes at Monmouth on Oct. 25.

"He's doing good," Perkins said. "We figured we'd get another start this year. He ran a good race last time in tough conditions."

Regular rider Joe Bravo will be aboard.

The rest of the Fall Highweight field is Around the Cape, Grand Champion, and City Attraction.

Sciacca begins 120-day ban

Trainer Gary Sciacca began serving a 120-day suspension Monday for what New York Racing Association stewards said was a milkshaking incident that occurred at his Belmont Park barn four years ago.

Though Sciacca was on vacation at the time of the incident and thus not present at his barn, he is punishable under the trainer's responsibility rule. Sciacca's assistant, Paul Barone, began serving a 120-day suspension for the same incident on Nov. 11.

Sciacca was given time to disperse his stable to other trainers. Gary Gullo has taken over the training of Sciacca's 16 horses. Sciacca, 47, is eligible to return March 18.

The penalty stems from an incident at Belmont on June 28, 2003, when a NYRA investigator said he witnessed veterinarian Dr. John McGuire, Barone, and Sciacca employee Oscar DeLeon giving the horse Storm River Kelly a milkshake on the morning of the day he was scheduled to race. A milkshake is a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and electrolytes that is thought to help stave off fatigue. The horse was scratched from the race.

The NYRA stewards initially recommended that Sciacca be suspended 45 days while the other three men get 60 days. The New York State Racing and Wagering Board increased the penalties to Barone and Sciacca to 120 days, while McGuire was given a 180-day penalty and a $1,000 fine. McGuire suffered a stroke that has left him incapacitated and he is longer a practicing vet.

In February 2006, DeLeon served a 45-suspension after he opted to drop an appeal.

Hunting targets Queens County

Hunting came out of his win in the Stuyvesant Handicap on Saturday in good order, trainer Shug McGaughey reported Monday. The next target will likely be Aqueduct's Queens County Handicap on Dec. 8.

Hunting, a 4-year-old gelding, won for the second straight time while making his stakes debut in the Stuyvesant. That was only the 11th start for the gelding, who had surgery to remove a chip from his ankle at 2. He didn't make it to the races until March of last year.

Rojas may miss two months

Raul Rojas, injured when his mount, Bully for Us, fell in the stretch run of Saturday's sixth race, could be sidelined for two months.

His agent, retired Hall of Fame jockey Jorge Velasquez, reported that Rojas fractured two vertebrae in the neck area.

- additional reporting by David Grening