03/17/2006 1:00AM

Kaenel facing 'that next step'

Adam Coglianese / NYRA
Kyle Kaenel started riding in New York in October and plans to stay as long as feasible.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Having been the dominant apprentice jockey in New York this winter, Kyle Kaenel's career starts anew this weekend as he begins life as a journeyman rider.

Kaenel, 18, lost his apprentice status - and the all-important five-pound weight allowance that goes with it - on Friday. He went winless in six mounts on his final day as an apprentice. Kaenel won 60 races as an apprentice over the inner track, good enough for fourth-place in the jockey standings.

"I'm ready to try and take that next step," Kaenel said before the races began on Friday. "I'm ready for it. It's not something I've been dreading, it's something I've been looking forward to."

Kaenel is the son of "Cowboy" Jack Kaenel, best known for being the youngest rider to win a Triple Crown race when he won the 1982 Preakness aboard Aloma's Ruler at age 16. Kyle Kaenel began his career out west, having had success at Turf Paradise before suffering a broken collarbone and shoulder in a spill on April 19, 2005.

Kaenel, who missed about five months, joined the New York colony in mid-October. He enjoyed his most success for Gary Contessa, for whom he has won 22 races.

Though Contessa's owner, Joseph Kowal, wanted a veteran rider to replace Kaenel on Sunshine Alpine in Saturday's Gotham, Contessa said he plans to continue to use Kaenel often. He did say, however, that he would reach out more frequently to Ramon Dominguez and Kent Desormeaux, a Hall of Fame jockey who begins riding here regularly on March 29.

"I think he's good enough to be a journeyman, but he better get used to the fact that he's a journeyman now and he's going to hit a slump," Contessa said of Kaenel. "He's coming into the spring and a lot of good riders [are returning]. He's not going to win as frequently. The guys who hang in there and go through the six or seven month drought can make it. We'll see what he's made of, if he can hang in there six or seven months."

Kaenel plans to stay in New York for as long as possible. He believes he is a much-improved rider now than he was at this time last year.

"I went back and watched a race from the day before I was hurt and I said, 'That's terrible,' " Kaenel said. "I think I've improved in every area. You can credit that to so many things, you can credit it to better horses, a terrific riding colony, my agent every day pounding into me: 'Left hand, left hand, left hand.' "

Kaenel's agent is Herb McCauley, who as an apprentice was the leading rider at Keystone and Monmouth Park. After winning only 41 races in his first full year as a journeyman, McCauley retired with 3,049 career victories.

"It's a jump," said McCauley, "but at the same time what needs to be noticed is, I thought this winter the jockey colony was one of the strongest they've had up here the last eight or nine years. With that being said, he's ridden with these guys, and he showed that he belongs and he can ride with them.

"In this business, you have to earn your dues at all times," McCauley added. "He has the talent, and he wants to learn more. I think he's capable of riding any place he wants to as long as he keeps applying what he's learned and keeps adding experience."

Scrappy T's back issues return

The back problems that forced Scrappy T to miss most of last summer have resurfaced and will postpone the gelding's return to the races till late spring.

Scrappy T, a multiple stakes winning 3-year-old and Preakness runner-up, returned to trainer Robert Bailes' Belmont Park barn in early February after a two-month vacation. He breezed three furlongs in 37.96 seconds on Feb. 17, but has not breezed since.

"The muscles in his back started bothering him again," Bailes said. "He's still in training. He's doing a lot of jogging. Hopefully he'll be back on the work tab in two or three weeks."

After finishing second in the Preakness, Scrappy T was sidelined four months with a strained back muscle. He returned to finish second in the Indiana Derby and Discovery before finishing the year with a sixth-place finish in the Cigar Mile.

"It's kind of the same deal as last year," Bailes said. "This time we know what we're dealing with."

How 'bout No takes Karakorum Splendor

How 'bout No, who finished third to Motor City Mama and Stand by the Phone in a six-furlong allowance race on Feb. 5, turned the tables on both rivals in Friday's $60,550 Karakorum Splendor for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Under Mike Luzzi, How 'bout No stalked Stand by the Phone from second before taking charge approaching the eighth pole. She had more than enough to hold off favored Motor City Mama at bay to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Motor City Mama hit the side of the gate when the doors opened and broke last. She likely would have been part of the pace.

How 'bout No ($6.10) covered six furlongs in 1:12.31.

Vasa, the 2-1 morning line favorite, was scratched and instead was scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 3 Cicada.

Dam has two winners on day

Half-sisters Magic Momentum and Great Lady K both won races at Aqueduct on Friday. Both fillies are out of the dam Samantha D, a daughter of Cryptoclearance.

Magic Momentum ($25), a 3-year-old daughter by Mighty Magee, won a claiming race by 1 1/2 lengths in the second. In the nightcap, Great Lady K ($10), a 4-year-old daughter of Kelly Kip, won a second-level allowance race for New York-bred fillies by a head.

Both fillies are owned and were bred by Elisabeth Jerkens and trained by her husband, Allen. Coincidentally, this was the third time since last September that both fillies ran on the same card.