06/13/2002 12:00AM

Kimmel likes Affirmed Dancer in Sands Point


ELMONT, N.Y. - The way John Kimmel sees it, Affirmed Dancer should be undefeated entering Sunday's $100,000 Sands Point Handicap at Belmont Park.

But a difficult trip in what turned out to be a difficult weekend for the trainer, resulted in a second-place finish for Affirmed Dancer in the May 25 Revidere Stakes at Monmouth Park.

"It typified my last month," Kimmel said. "In one weekend, I lost four photos. She went around everybody. [Joe] Bravo, who rode the winner, snuck in along the inside, and we made a big, sweeping five-wide move, and it caught up to her the last part of it."

Affirmed Dancer won her first two career starts, winning her maiden at Gulfstream Park in February and an entry-level allowance race at Keeneland in April. Sunday will be her first attempt in a graded stake.

Kimmel said Javier Castellano would ride Affirmed Dancer, the fourth different rider the 3-year-old filly has had.

A large field is expected for the Sands Point, including Cat Rocket, Cyclorama, Jester Rahab, Magnificent Val, Maita, Midnite Deelite, Ntombi, Nunatall, Riskaverse, She's Vested, Tarnished Lady, and Temp West.

While Kimmel may have had a frustrating spring, he appears to have a lot to look forward to this summer. Hook and Ladder, his stakes-winning sprinter, is on the comeback trail following surgery to fix an entrapped epiglottis.

Hook and Ladder is training at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland and may be ready to race at the end of Belmont or the start of Saratoga.

Meanwhile, Wheelaway, who hasn't raced since his fourth-place finish in the 2000 Belmont, had his first breeze of the year Saturday at Fair Hill, going three furlongs in 38 seconds. Kimmel hopes to have him ready by Saratoga.

"So far, so good," he said. "He's had 90 days of galloping. Every day, every breeze is a new challenge. He's been pretty well-behaved. He still likes screaming at all the fillies, but he's been fairly good on the racetrack."

E Dubai finally ready

When last seen on the track in the afternoon, E Dubai was being upset by Outofthebox in the Grade 1 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs. For the first time in 255 days, E Dubai returns to the races in Saturday's Brooklyn Handicap, looking to launch a successful 4-year-old campaign. A $1.35 million yearling purchase by Godolphin Racing, E Dubai has only run four times, with his biggest win coming in the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes here last July.

E Dubai ran well following the Dwyer, finishing second to Point Given in the Travers before running second as the 1-2 favorite in the Super Derby.

"Things didn't work out for him that day," Godolphin assistant Tom Albertrani said of the Super Derby. "He acted up in the gate, reared up before they loaded the last couple of horses and wouldn't stand. Johnny [Velazquez] wasn't tied on when they broke. He was being pressured from the start and the track was deep and laboring that day."

Albertrani said there were no other races for E Dubai to run in the remainder of the year, so he was given the final 2 1/2 months of 2001 off. When he returned to Dubai, E Dubai suffered from cracked heels, the result of the salt in the Dubai track surface.

"Once he got here, they cleared up right away," Albertrani said.

E Dubai missed a little bit of training leading up to the Metropolitan Handicap, and when the field came up so strong, the decision was made to skip it. Albertrani believes that E Dubai has flourished the last three weeks and is anticipating a good run on Saturday rain or shine.

"The track will be no problem whether it's fast or sloppy, he'll handle any type of track," he said.

Albertrani hopes the Brooklyn is a stepping-stone to the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 3 where E Dubai would get another crack at winning a Grade 1.

Yankee Gentleman confuses Mott

Trainer Bill Mott was just as disappointed with Yankee Gentleman's fourth-place finish in last Saturday's Riva Ridge Stakes as the bettors who made him 6-5 were. Yankee Gentleman, coming off of two sharp victories in his first three starts, tired in the Riva Ridge after running a sub-22-second second quarter.

"He went too fast his second quarter, that's the bottom line," Mott said. "Originally I was going to win this race then go to the Dwyer and stretch him out. Now, I'm confused."

Mott said Yankee Gentleman "looks fine" after returning to the track on Wednesday. Mott has not decided where and when Yankee Gentleman would run next.

Leonard Imperio dead at 70

Trainer Leonard Imperio died Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.

In a career that began in 1967 and was interrupted for several years in the late 1980's and 1990's, Imperio won 333 races, and his horses earned $5,585,214. Perhaps the best horse Imperio trained was Star Gallant, who in 1982 won the Fountain of Youth and Illinois Derby.

Other stakes winners campaigned by Imperio were Barcus, Brigand, Captivating, Drum's Captain, Funalon, Ghazwan, and Oilfield.

Imperio stopped training in 1985 when he was first diagnosed with cancer. He returned to training in 1996 and campaigned the stakes-winning Boston Party, who won the 2000 Queens County Handicap.

"He really loved the horses," said fellow trainer Laurie LaFavers. "He was really thankful to come back. He said it was like another lease on life."

LaFavers will take over the training of the six horses Imperio had, including Khatt Elnaar and Redhead Riot, who are both entered to run Saturday at Belmont.

Imperio, born in Potenza, Italy, is survived by his wife, Rosemary, and daughters Lisa, Laura, and Victoria and eight grandchildren. His brother, Dominick, is also a trainer on the NYRA circuit.

* Imperial Gesture, runner-up in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, worked four furlongs in 50.66 seconds. Godolphin assistant trainer Tom Albertrani said the Grade 1 Test on July 27 at Saratoga is a possible next start for her.