02/18/2006 12:00AM

Like Now wires Capossela

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Like Now sprinted to the front, was able to carve out moderate fractions, then drew clear to a 2 3/4-length victory in Saturday's $69,095 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes at Aqueduct.

Sunshine Alpine, the slight 2-1 favorite, split horses in the stretch and rallied to be second by 3 1/4 lengths over Strummer. Sing'n Shout and Book Bishop completed the order of finish.

The victory was the second straight and third from six starts for Like Now, a 3-year-old gelded son of Jules owned by John Dillon and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin. Jockey Fernando Jara rode Like Now and earned his first career North American stakes victory.

Like Now outsprinted his stablemate Sing'n Shout and Jimmy Winkfield Stakes winner Strummer to the lead, and set fractions of 23.34 seconds and 47.29 before completing the six furlongs in 1:11.80. He returned $7.70 as the third choice in the five-horse field.

"We thought Sing'n Shout might break a little sharper actually, and when Fernando broke well he went on with it and Eibar [Coa on Sing'n Shout] elected to take back, which was good they didn't hook up," said assistant trainer Art Magnuson. "Like Now is really maturing; he's really turning into a nice horse."

Gary Contessa, the trainer of Sunshine Alpine and Book Bishop, said he thought Like Now was the horse to beat and was worried when he saw him gain an uncontested lead.

"To see him on the lead by himself kind of took all the starch out of my sails because there's the horse to beat and he's cutting his own fractions on the lead by himself; no competition, I'm dead," Contessa said. "Believe me, at the half-mile pole I was hoping to run second with one of them."

Like Now and Sunshine Alpine could both stretch out in the Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham Stakes at 1 1/16 miles here on March 18.

Saratoga facility hit by storm

Saratoga Race Course sustained approximately $100,000 in damages Friday because of a brutal storm that brought high winds - and in some areas thunderstorms and hail - to the capital region.

According to New York Racing Association officials, barns 47, 55, and 69 sustained damaged roofs. Barn 69, where trainer John Hertler was stabled last summer, also suffered damage to approximately 10 stalls. Last year, Dominick Schettino was stabled in barn 47 and Scott Everett had horses in barn 55.

Tree limbs were strewn throughout the facility, according to NYRA vice president Bill Nader, who added that there was some damage near the bandstand area in front of the Carvel stand on the front side.

Despite NYRA's financial crunch, Nader said there should be no problem repairing the damaged barns by the time horses are allowed to ship in to Saratoga around April 1.

"We'll take care of it,"Nader said.

Last June, a storm caused some damage to barns 58 and 37.