03/31/2005 1:00AM

New bridle helps Galloping Grocer


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Dominick Schettino suspects that Galloping Grocer may have displaced his palate in the Gotham, so he will equip the New York-bred gelding with a figure-eight bridle for his next start. Judging by his workout on Thursday, it may make a difference.

Wearing a figure-eight bridle for the first time, Galloping Grocer blitzed through a five-furlong work in 59.05 seconds Thursday morning over the Belmont Park training track. It was the fastest of 39 breezes at the distance. Mike Luzzi was aboard for the work.

Schettino said Galloping Grocer, who has been on or near the lead in his races, worked behind other horses that were breezing and took a little dirt in his face.

"He took the dirt good; the horse worked super," Schettino said. "He cooled out good and scoped clean."

Luzzi, who has worked Galloping Grocer three times and ridden him once in a race, is confident that he can get him several lengths off the pace in his next start, which will either be the Wood Memorial or Illinois Derby. Both races are on April 9.

"He's maturing," Luzzi said. "He's breathing good, his fitness is good. Maybe we can ride him a little differently next time. He still belongs. He didn't get beat five lengths in the Gotham, he just got beat."

Galloping Grocer was beaten one length by Survivalist in the Gotham. He finished third, but was placed second when the stewards disqualified Pavo and placed him fourth.

Owner Bob Rosenthal wanted to review the prospective fields for both the Wood and Illinois Derby before committing to a race.

"It's the field, number one," Rosenthal said when asked what would go into the decision. "Number two, what sort of track do we think we're going to have? And are we now smarter with the horse and has the horse learned more?''

Don Six confirmed for Carter

Trainer Scott Lake had three possible races for Don Six's next start. But two things made next Saturday's Grade 1 Carter Handicap a logical choice.

The first was an amazing half-mile workout in 44.67 seconds by Don Six on March 19 at Philadelphia Park. The second was the winning performance of Saratoga County in last weekend's Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba.

Lake said the March 19 work "was the most impressive work I've ever seen in my life. I had people calling me, telling me they've seen Spend a Buck work and they've never seen anything like that. It looked like he was literally galloping.''

Since coming to Lake's barn, Don Six has won the Gravesend and Paumonok handicaps. He was beaten a nose by Saratoga County in the Grade 2 General George Handicap.

Lake noted that only one horse - one he trained - won on the lead that day at Laurel. Don Six made all the pace before being caught late by Saratoga County.

Among those pointing to the Carter are Forest Danger, Grand Reward, Medallist, Silver Wagon, and Unforgettable Max.

Kappes happy to still have Country Be Gold

Steve Kappes considers himself fortunate to still be training Country Be Gold, whom he will saddle in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Shortly after Country Be Gold won the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap in January, part-owner Elizabeth Dodson suffered a stroke. Her family decided to divest her interests in racing and her co-owner, Barry Seinfeld, sold the horse to a friend, Richard Riberio.

"It was a sad turn of events," Kappes said. "Mrs. Dodson really loved this horse. Thankfully, Dr. Seinfeld knows the horse and he put in a good word to the new owner for me."

In his first start for Riberio, Country Be Gold finished fourth in the Stymie Handicap. Country Be Gold was likely hampered by the slow early fractions. He raced closer to the pace than he likes and was beaten only 2 1/2 lengths by Hydrogen.

"There was no pace at all in the Stymie," Kappes said. "They went three-quarters in 1:14 and 1. He ran the last part, but so did everybody else. He couldn't improve his position.

With Rogue Agent and Presidentialaffair in the field for the Excelsior, the early pace promises to be much swifter for Country Be Gold, an 8-year-old horse who has won 11 of 55 starts and banked $803,531.