12/27/2003 1:00AM

Loving completes Dutrow's hat trick


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Loving, a 7-year-old Brazilian-bred gelding who had one win in 30 months, dominated Saturday's $83,925 Gallant Fox Handicap, taking control at the three-eighths pole and rolling to a 7 3/4-length victory at Aqueduct.

Nothing Flat rallied from last to be second, 8 1/4 lengths ahead of Fisher Pond, who was third in this race for the second consecutive year. Tailfromthecrypt, the 5-2 favorite, was never involved and finished seventh in the 10-horse field.

Loving's victory capped a perfect day for trainer Richard Dutrow, who also swept the early double with Just Gabi ($3.80) and Hogan's Spirit ($6.70). Dutrow is now 15 for 31 since the inner track opened on Dec. 3.

Loving had toiled on the turf in Southern California before being purchased privately by a partnership headed by Sanford Goldfarb in the spring of 2002. In his first start for his new connections, Loving suffered a muscle tear in his hind end and was off more than a year. In four starts since returning, Loving had won only a high-priced, off-the-turf claiming race.

On Dec. 10, Loving finished a non-threatening fifth in the prep for the Gallant Fox.

"`I can't explain his last race,'' Dutrow said. "I thought he was going to run a big race, maybe he had too much time between races, I don't know, I can't explain it. I can't explain today either. I knew he'd like the distance, that's the only thing we had going for us. ''

Under Jose Espinoza, Loving settled in the back of the pack while Jarf, under Anthony Black, set an ambitious pace of 1:11.82 for six furlongs in the 13-furlong race. At the five-furlong marker, Loving dragged Espinoza into second, inhaled Jarf at the three-furlong marker, and opened up. Loving covered the 1 5/8 miles in 2:45.08 over a fast track and returned $41.80 to win.

Pony rider remains critical

Hannah Blumenthal, the free-lance pony rider who was critically injured in a spill at Belmont Park on Friday morning, was induced into a coma to relieve pressure on her brain following surgery and is expected to remain comatose for three or four days, according to those familiar with her situation.

Blumenthal also suffered a broken neck, several fractured vertebrae and ribs, and a fractured sternum as a result of the spill, according to trainer Colum O'Brien, who has been in contact with Blumenthal's family.