12/20/2001 12:00AM

Kimmel loves the Ladies


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Trainer John Kimmel has a way with the Ladies.

On Saturday, when Aqueduct hosts the 131st Ladies Handicap - the oldest stakes in the country run exclusively for fillies and mares - Kimmel will seek his fourth consecutive victory in the race. In 1998, he won it with Unbridled Hope. The last two years, he won it with Strolling Belle, who seeks a three-peat on Saturday.

Strolling Belle is only 1 for 8 since being put up to first by the stewards in last year's Ladies. However, there are a few things that work in her favor on Saturday. First, she is 3-2-0 from five inner track starts. Second, she is 3-1-1 in five starts at 1 1/4 miles. Third, the presence of Summer Colony and Irving's Baby could make for a legitimate pace off which Strolling Belle figures to sit.

"It's a race that might set up nicely for her because there's a lot of speed in the race," Kimmel said. "Considering the kind of horses that are in the race, Summer Colony and Irving's Baby, you know there will be a legitimate pace in the race."

Strolling Belle's lone win this year came in the Personal Ensign Handicap at The Meadowlands. Her two most recent losses come with legitimate excuses. In the Turnback the Alarm, Strolling Belle stumbled and was then boxed in for most of the trip while finishing third. In losing a classified allowance race to Stop for Schnapps, Strolling Belle again stumbled and was spotting the winner 13 pounds.

Heberto Castillo, who was aboard for both of the prior Ladies Handicap wins, will up again on Saturday.

Kimmel said that Strolling Belle will be bred next spring, although she could race once more, in the Rare Treat Handicap on Feb. 18.

Brutally Frank injured, career over

Brutally Frank, winner of the Grade 1 Carter Handicap in 2000, suffered two fractures of one of the sesamoid bones in his right front ankle Wednesday, an injury that will end his career. The injury could have been fatal had he broken both sesamoid bones.

Brutally Frank suffered the injury during the running of Wednesday's seventh race, in which he was eased. He was fitted with an air cast and taken off the track via equine ambulance. He was resting comfortably in his Belmont Park stall on Thursday morning. Trainer Mitch Friedman said Brutally Frank will be operated on by Dr. Larry Bramlage in New York on Dec. 27.

"He will put plates and screws in the ankle joint," Friedman said.

A gelded son of Groovy, Brutally Frank did his best racing in the spring of 2000, winning four consecutive races including the ungraded Toboggan Handicap, the Grade 3 Bold Ruler, and the Carter. Although he lost his last 12 starts, Brutally Frank finished his career with a 12-12-7 record from 69 starts. He earned $636,664.

"He was a 100 percent sound horse,'' Friedman said. "Obviously, he wasn't as good as he got at one time, but he loved to go out there and run and compete. I'm definitely looking forward to getting him back and giving him a good home, which is what he deserves. That horse has been so good to me."

Gander pointed to Big Cap

Trainer John Terranova is in town this week to spend the holidays with his family and check up on his New York stable. When he returns to Southern California next week, one of the stars of his stable won't be far behind.

Gander, the Meadowlands Cup winner, will ship in to Terranova's Hollywood Park barn on Thursday to begin preparations for the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 2. He could prep in the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 3.

Gander has spent the last month at Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Kentucky, receiving a well-deserved freshening after a 10-race campaign in which he faced some of the best horses in training. He last ran on Nov. 22, finishing fifth in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs. Before that, he was ninth in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Terranova, who has a 10-horse stable at Hollywood this winter, said he decided to point Gander for the Santa Anita Handicap because of the dearth of handicap horses in California.

"He fits in well with the group that's out there,'' Terranova said. "All the top ones retired or are just coming back. There doesn't appear to be a strong handicap division right now."

Terranova added that Heavyweight Champ, his stakes-placed juvenile sprinter, will race once this winter at Santa Anita before returning to New York for the series of sprint stakes for 3-year-olds. Heavyweight Champ, who worked three furlongs in 39.60 seconds at Hollywood Park on Wednesday, could run in the San Miguel on Jan. 13 or the San Vicente on Feb. 2.