03/03/2006 12:00AM

Migliore wins first ride back from injury

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Maryland-based Sweetnorthernsaint, who has won 2 of his last 3, may not be allowed to run in the Gotham.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Even the usually cynical railbirds cheered Richard Migliore as he returned to the winner's enclosure aboard Ojibway following the third race on Friday.

"The Mig" was back after months of painful rehabilitation.

Migliore, on his first mount since breaking a leg and injuring an Achilles tendon in a paddock accident at Belmont Park on Oct. 20, teamed with Ojibway ($8.40) to pull out a head win.

Migliore sported a wide grin while acknowledging the cheers of the crowd. Moments later, Migliore brushed back tears, embracing wife Carmela and their four children outside the jockeys' room.

"It's pretty emotional," said Migliore. "I struggled a lot getting back and getting healthy. It was a lot of time in the gym and mental anguish."

Migliore, who turns 42 on March 14, wondered if this moment would ever come again.

"At my age, I've dodged so many bullets and been hurt so many times, you have to wonder how many times you can come back," he said. "It took a lot of work. To have that hard work rewarded right away made it emotional."

Migliore looked fit in the saddle as Ojibway prevailed at the end of a long drive.

"I had to ride him hard from a long ways out," said Migliore. "He was trying to lay in a little bit. I knew if I went back right-handed late, I would get another little spurt out of him. I waited as long as I could. I kind of knew I won hitting the wire but I was all in."

Migliore had two other mounts on the card but neither hit the board. He had targeted Thursday for the comeback, but that card was canceled by a snow storm.

Sweetnorthernsaint targets Gotham

Trainer Michael Trombetta would love to run the rapidly improving Sweetnorthernsaint in the Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 18.

But the New York Racing Association ban on horses stabled at Maryland tracks because of an equine herpesvirus outbreak has Trombetta pondering the Grade 3, $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby, also on March 18, as a fallback position.

"The Gotham is the target," said Trombetta, whose horses are based at Laurel. Trombetta said the members of the Aqueduct racing office are "optimistic" that Sweetnorthernsaint would be allowed to come.

Dr. Anthony Verderosa, NYRA's chief examining veterinarian, was not as hopeful. Verderosa said it was "possible" that the ban could be lifted in time for the Gotham but called it "less likely than likely."

Verderosa will continue to monitor the test results of horses stabled at the Maryland tracks and the Bowie training center. NYRA will allow horses from the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., to race at Aqueduct starting March 8.

Lifting that ban doesn't help Trombetta, whose gelding needs graded-stakes earnings to ensure a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

Sweetnorthernsaint made his debut for trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. on the turf at Colonial Downs on Aug. 1 and was an unmanageable handful.

"He was a misbehaving colt with a whole lot of stunts in his pocket," said Trombetta. "He got loose before the race, and he was bad in the gate. It was a total throw-out."

Owner Joseph Balsamo transferred the horse to Trombetta and the colt was gelded.

With an improved focus, Sweetnorthernsaint has reeled off a pair of dominant wins for Trombetta and lost a third race on a disqualification.

Sweetnorthernsaint, who won his maiden in an Aqueduct sprint, easily won his stakes debut last time out in the Miracle Wood on Feb. 4 at Laurel. He romped in the slop, taking the one-mile race by 10 lengths while earning a 104 Beyer Speed Figure.

The lineup for the Gotham, like Sweetnorthernsaint's status, remains in flux.

Stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes said the list of possible runners includes Achilles of Troy, the dominant winner of a pair of Big A winter stakes; Greeley's Legacy, a winner of 2 of his last 3 at the Big A; Refinery, from trainer Richard Mandella in California; plus Sunshine Alpine, One Way Flight, and Deputy Glitters.

Arroyo gets three-day suspension

Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. sounded off, calling for an investigation of the stewards after they disqualified his mount from a victory in the third race Wednesday.

On Friday, the stewards met with Arroyo and had their say: a three-day suspension (March 5, 8, and 9) for careless riding and a $1,000 fine for a "display of temper towards a racing official."

Arroyo said it was a chilly meeting.

"I just listened to what they said," said Arroyo. "I just left. I walked away from them."

Carmine Donofrio, the New York state racing and wagering board steward, declined to comment on the penalties or Arroyo's call for an investigation.

Angelic Aura looks best

There are no stakes this Sunday at the Big A, so a $50,000 optional claiming race will serve as the feature.

It looks like a good spot for Angelic Aura, who has been rounding into form on the comeback trail.

A 6-year-old gelding, was claimed two starts back by trainer Dominick Schettino for $50,000 and rallied for second in his first start for the new barn.

Angelic Aura has started twice this year, both races at Aqueduct. They were his first outings since he won the 2004 running of the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Memorial at Delaware Park.

Angelic Aura's other top stakes efforts include a fourth in 2004 in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park and a victory in the 2003 off-the-turf Princeton Stakes at The Meadowlands.