10/19/2006 12:00AM

Mohawk plan: Keep Retribution within range

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Retribution will again be the one to catch in the $150,000 Mohawk Handicap for New York breds on the turf at Belmont Park on Saturday.

The 4-year-old gelding, trained by John Hertler, has already demonstrated what can happen if he is left all alone. Retribution built an insurmountable lead in Belmont's Ashley T. Cole Handicap on Sept. 17 and held on for the upset at 25-1.

"I certainly didn't expect that," Hertler said. "He's fast and he doesn't want to be held back. He was able to get a breather, and I think that was critical for his finish."

Retribution opened up by 15 lengths and left everyone chasing in vain.

That won't happen again, vowed Rich Schosberg, trainer of Certifiably Crazy, the runner-up that day.

Schosberg compared the Cole to a pitcher having set up a batter for a change-up. In the West Point Handicap at Saratoga, Retribution also enjoyed a large lead. Certifiably Crazy reeled him in turning for home on his way to a 1 3/4-length win. Retribution wound up eighth.

Schosberg expected a similar fade in the Cole.

"I thought we were sitting in the driver's seat again," Schosberg said. "The other horse just opened up too much. We ran a helluva race to make up 11 lengths from the half-mile pole to the wire."

Certifiably Crazy, the 7-5 favorite in the Cole, trimmed the final deficit to 4 1/4 lengths.

Schosberg does not anticipate a head-and-head battle right from the start in the 1 1/8-mile Mohawk. He would be happy to see jockey Cornelio Velasquez keep Certifiably Crazy in range.

"We need to stay a little bit closer," Schosberg said. "Ten lengths would be okay. It's a tactical race. The other horse comes back. It's just a matter of whether he comes back in time. Everybody in the race knows you can't let that horse open up by 15."

Foreverness, a veteran of the New York-bred turf stakes, was a rallying third in the Cole, finishing a length behind Certifiably Crazy. A 7-year-old gelding trained by Monmouth Park-based Greg Sacco, Foreverness scored one of the biggest wins of his career in April in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct. He was fourth behind Win With Beck in the off-the-turf Mohawk in 2005. Win With Beck, trained by Jimmy Jerkens, is returning to defend that title.

Completing the field are Key Event, Don't Knock America, Golden Commander, Irving's Doers, Continental Reins, and Classic Fran.

Three entered for the main track only: Delta Sea, Lord Langfuhr, and Lethal Missile.