01/24/2008 12:00AM

Like Now may wake up on inner


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Like Now returns to Aqueduct, the scene of his greatest triumph, with something to prove.

The 5-year-old Like Now faces six rivals Saturday in the $75,000 Paumonok Handicap at six furlongs.

Owner-breeder John Dillon and new trainer Bill Badgett Jr. hope the shift sparks a revival following two dismal efforts at Calder.

"Mr. Dillon wanted him up here this winter and I had trained some horses for him in the past," Badgett said.

Like Now is best known for his 2006 upset win at 36-1 in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes over the inner track. He followed that with a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes and a pacesetting bid in the Preakness before fading to seventh.

Like Now returned last season for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to win 1 of 7 starts, a snappy allowance victory at Saratoga.

The Saratoga win was followed by four straight losses, including a pair of defeats by 25 lengths in November at Calder.

"They sent him down to Florida with the goal of running him on the grass," Badgett said. "His first race down there [on dirt], he really didn't like the track and his second was taken off the turf."

So it was back to New York to a new barn with a chance for a fresh start over the inner track, where he is 3 for 4.

"He's done pretty well up here," Badgett said. "He really likes the inner track and he has trained well up to this race."

Alan Garcia, aboard for Like Now's most recent workout on Jan. 17, four furlongs in 49.56 seconds at Belmont Park, will ride the horse in a race for the first time.

"He's kind of a funny horse to ride," Badgett said. "He runs with his head down really low. If you don't know him, you'll say, 'My gosh, what's going on here?' "

Like Now faces several veterans of Aqueduct's inner-track handicap wars, including City Attraction and Debussy, the winner and third-place finisher, respectively, in the Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap on Dec. 29.

One day before the Gravesend, Man of Danger posted a front-running victory here in a third-level allowance race.

Adore the Gold, Lord Snowdon, and Leo complete the field.