12/03/2003 12:00AM

Max's time may have arrived


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Unforgettable Max has had a pretty forgettable career thus far.

But that could change as early as Saturday, when Unforgettable Max runs in the Grade 3, $100,000 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct.

Unforgettable Max, a son of Northern Afleet, is coming off one of his better performances when beaten a nose by During in the Grade 3 Discovery Handicap for 3-year-olds over Aqueduct's main track. Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. considered waiting for the $100,000 Hal's Hope Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 3, but Unforgettable Max has trained so well lately that Perkins does not want to wait.

"He was never a good shipper in the past, and he's doing so good right now we decided to stay here," said Perkins, who brought Unforgettable Max and 18 others to Belmont for the winter. "The extra distance will help him, I think."

The Queens County, run at 1 3/16 miles, is an important race for Unforgettable Max. As a Florida-bred, he would be eligible to run in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic on Jan. 24 at Santa Anita, a race that pits California-breds against Florida-breds. Preference is given to graded stakes winners, however, and Unforgettable Max has yet to win one.

As a 2-year-old, Unforgettable Max had his share of problems. After winning his maiden at Monmouth in August, he developed a serious case of colic. After winning an entry-level allowance race over Aqueduct's inner track last December, he injured a hind ankle.

Unforgettable Max didn't return to the races until July 30 at Monmouth Park, where he finished fourth as the 1-2 favorite in a second-level allowance race. One month later, Unforgettable Max made a successful two-turn debut, winning a second-level allowance by 10 3/4 lengths going 1 1/16 miles.

Unforgettable Max tried graded stakes company for the first time in the Meadowlands Cup, where he finished third behind Bowman's Band. He was disqualified to fourth after interfering with Volponi leaving the starting gate.

Perkins believes Unforgettable Max is close to realizing the potential he displayed as a 2-year-old.

"He was an edgy horse when he was younger, speedy and edgy," Perkins said. "He's a lot different now. He's settled down a little bit. He has speed, but he's more relaxed now."

A field of seven is expected for the Queens County, including Country Be Gold, Last Intention, Patriot's Song, Peekskill, Snake Mountain, and Thunder Blitz. Newfoundland is possible.

Orseno eyes East View

Sage's Fifty Six has not run fast, but she has run long. And that, trainer Joe Orseno hopes, will give Sage's Fifty Six an edge in Sunday's $75,000 East View Stakes for New York-bred juvenile fillies, which is run at 1 1/16 miles.

Sage's Fifty Six, a daughter of Victory Gallop, won her maiden in her fifth career start. It was her first start around two turns and first with blinkers added. Although she ran nine furlongs in a pedestrian 1:56.27, she showed Orseno some encouraging signs.

"Two turns was what she was looking for," Orseno said. "She's a New York-bred that wants to go long, and the better part is she'll run turf or dirt."

On the advice of Edgar Prado, Orseno said he equipped Sage's Fifty Six with blinkers for her last start. Prado, who had ridden Victory Gallop in his maiden win, said Sage's Fifty Six was the type that needed to be ridden along the entire race.

"I figured let me put them on her and it made her pay attention," Orseno said. "I know they ran slow, but it was a mile and an eighth, and she ran hard all the way. She's going to be a better 3-year-old. If this wasn't two turns I wouldn't run her."

A field of nine is shaping up for the East View, including Capeside Lady, Clarksburg Queen, Fait Accompli, French Dish, Gold Flinger, Leedle Lee, Nevaeh, and Wild Berry.

Blazing Fury has chip removed

Blazing Fury, whose disappointing 4-year-old season came to an end with a last-place finish in the Knickerbocker Handicap last month, had a bone chip removed from an ankle, trainer Jimmy Toner said. Blazing Fury is already at Payson Park in Florida and will resume training at the first of the year.

Blazing Fury showed promise at the end of his 3-year-old season when he finished second in the Grade 1 Turf Classic. But a tendon injury knocked him out of the Breeders' Cup. Between recovering from his injury and a wet spring, Blazing Fury never could get untracked this year and was winless in four starts.

Toner said he hopes Blazing Fury can return to the races in mid-March at Gulfstream.

Toner will also bring Wonder Again back to the races in Florida. Wonder Again, a Grade 1 winner at 3, won the Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont in September and finished fourth in the WinStar Galaxy in her last start.

* Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. had a terrific start at the inner track meet, winning with three of his four starters on Wednesday's card. After running third in the opener with Private Practice, Dutrow won the fifth with Sea Leon ($4.10), the eighth with She's Zealous ($3.90), and the nightcap with Sir Brian ($6).

Javier Castellano, the defending inner track riding champion, rode two winners Wednesday, as did Mike Luzzi.