03/21/2005 12:00AM

McGaughey won't jump gun

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Survivalist (left) begins to overtake Pavo (center) and Naughty New Yorker (second from left) in the stretch before scoring by three-quarters of a length Saturday in the Gotham at Aqueduct. Survivalist will run next in the Wood Memorial on April 9.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Shug McGaughey believes any talk about him joining the Kentucky Derby trail at this point is premature.

While naturally pleased with Survivalist's three-quarter-length victory in Saturday's at Aqueduct, McGaughey said he would need to see something more impressive in the Wood Memorial on April 9 to even consider pointing to the Kentucky Derby.

"For me to run him in the Derby, he'd have to have a better effort in the Wood," McGaughey said Monday morning. "Off him winning the Gotham, going a flat mile, he'd be 50-1 if I ran him in [the Derby]. His race was good. I like the way he finished, but I'd have to take it a step at a time. If we went, it'd be because we felt he had a legitimate chance."

Survivalist, who was eligible for entry-level allowance conditions entering the Gotham, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 in the race.

McGaughey's Gotham assessment was basically correct. Horses who ran well in the Gotham earned a shot to come back in the Wood, or any other two-turn, 1 1/8-mile race in April, but nothing more. At least two, and as many as four, Gotham runners will run back in the $750,000 Wood, a race that has produced three of the last five Derby winners.

Survivalist and Naughty New Yorker, who finished fourth but was placed third via disqualification, are definite for the Wood. Galloping Grocer, who finished third but was moved to second, will go in either the Wood or the Illinois Derby, also on April 9, at Hawthorne. Pavo, who finished second but was disqualified to fourth, is questionable for the Wood.

Aside from some body soreness to Pavo, the top four Gotham finishers - separated by 1 1/2 lengths - appeared to come out of the roughly run race in good physical shape.

Pavo had a tough trip after jockey Alan Garcia lost his irons near the half-mile pole. Garcia did a remarkable job considering he rode the last half-mile with his legs dangling from his stirrups. Pavo struck the front in upper stretch and fought down the lane, though he bumped with Galloping Grocer. Pavo was disqualified from fourth and placed second after Garcia's whip hit Naughty New Yorker in the face nearing the finish line.

Trainer Jennifer Pedersen on Monday maintained her stance that she would appeal the disqualification of Pavo because she believes Garcia lost his irons when Pavo and Galloping Grocer bumped on the backstretch. Pedersen said she would review the tapes of the race before formally filing the appeal with the stewards Wednesday.

"Did I think he deserved to come down? No," Pedersen said. "The other horse hit him. [Galloping Grocer] goes over us after bumping us on the backside? What?"

Pedersen said Pavo's next race is uncertain. She said she wants to see how Daddy Joe and Mr Sword run this weekend in stakes at Turfway Park before making a decision about the Wood. Mr Sword will run in the $500,000 Lane's End, and Daddy Joe is expected to start in the $100,000 Rushaway Stakes.

Trainer Pat Kelly said he just wanted Naughty New Yorker to get through the Gotham safe and sound and get to the Wood. That nearly didn't happen, as his horse got jostled around in addition to being hit in the face with a whip. Kelly said his horse came out of the race unscathed.

Horses that didn't run in the Gotham who are considering the Wood are Bellamy Road, Going Wild, and Scrappy T.

Galloping Grocer may get blinkers

The connections of Galloping Grocer said they would wait a while before choosing between running in the Wood or Illinois Derby.

Owner Bob Rosenthal said Galloping Grocer has had two tough trips in the Whirlaway and Gotham and said the Illinois Derby may not be as competitive as the Wood. Rosenthal did note that Galloping Grocer's best race to date came in the Remsen, which is run under the same conditions as the Wood, but he said, "There's been a closer's bias'' in his two New York starts.

Whichever race he runs in, Galloping Grocer may get blinkers in his next start. Dominick Schettino said Galloping Grocer had his head cocked to the right in the stretch, possibly catching sight of Garcia's legs swinging back and forth out of his stirrups.

Schettino said he would train Galloping Grocer in blinkers a few times between now and April 9. Schettino said he was happy with Galloping Grocer's effort, but was happier to have a sound horse following a roughly run race in which his horse was bumped a couple of times in the stretch.

McGaughey eyes Next Move

McGaughey went 3 for 4 on Saturday's card, winning allowance races with Philanthropist and Leading the Parade in addition to the Gotham. He said he hopes to keep things rolling here Friday, when he runs either Daydreaming or Strategy in the Grade 3, $100,000 Next Move Handicap.

It was McGaughey's intent to run Daydreaming after she finished fourth in the Grade 3 Sabin Handicap at Gulfstream on Feb. 26. But Daydreaming subsequently pulled a muscle, and his status for the race is questionable. She worked a slow half-mile in 51.24 seconds at Belmont on Sunday.

If Daydreaming doesn't run, then Strategy will. Strategy has not run since finishing second in the Exogenous Stakes last Dec. 11 over the inner track. On Monday, Strategy worked Monday at Belmont, though no time was recorded.

Daydreaming was assigned 119 pounds, as were expected starters Friel's for Real and Miss Fortunate. Others likely to run are Saintliness (117), Rare Gift (116), Pour It On (114), and Grinch (113). Strategy was assigned 113 pounds.

More surgery for Snake Mountain

Snake Mountain finished last in an allowance race Friday, his first start following throat surgery to repair an entrapped epiglottis. His connections said he displaced his palate during the running of Friday's race and was scheduled to undergo a second surgical procedure Tuesday at the New Jersey Equine Clinic.

"A lot of horses that go through the entrapment surgery, post-entrapment surgery they become displaced and have to through the second surgery," said Steve Moyer, assistant to trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Moyer said Jerkens and owner Jack Shelley want to keep campaigning Snake Mountain.

"This horse is so sound and so strong, he was training phenomenal," Moyer said.