03/21/2003 12:00AM

N.Y. state of mind


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Gary Contessa said he has had his fill of chasing open-company horses with New York-bred Grey Comet and will point him to a series of restricted races.

Grey Comet, runner-up in last weekend's Gotham - beaten 4 1/4 lengths by Alysweep - will run next in the $150,000 Times Square, a division of the New York Stallion Stakes, on April 27 at Aqueduct.

If Grey Comet, a son of New York sire Distinctive Pro, wins the Times Square and the $250,000 Cab Calloway on June 8 at Belmont Park, he would earn a $100,000 bonus for his owners, Peter and Marshall Winston of Star Track Farms.

Grey Comet, who is unbeaten in restricted company, became eligible to win the bonus when he won the Great White Way Stakes last November.

The Stallion Stakes is one of two bonuses up for grabs this year for Grey Comet's connections. He is nominated to the Big Apple Triple, a series of races for 3-year-old New York-breds that provides the owner of a horse that sweeps the series with a $250,000 bonus.

The Big Apple Triple comprises the $100,000 Mike Lee on June 28 at Belmont, the $250,000 New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 26, and the $150,000 Albany at Saratoga on Aug. 20.

"He needed to beat open company horses impressively in order to keep going in that direction," Contessa said. "Now we need to beat up on easier horses and make money while we are 1-5."

Contessa anticipates that some day Grey Comet will meet Funny Cide, who is scheduled to run next in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 12. Funny Cide is unbeaten against New York-breds and is the favorite to be named champion statebred juvenile male when the awards are announced next month.

"As good as Funny Cide is, I think my horse is on par with him," Contessa said.

Raging Fever ready for 2003 debut

A freshened Raging Fever is scheduled to make her 2003 debut in Saturday's $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup.

Raging Fever won the seven-furlong Distaff last year in her third start of the season. Raging Fever's trainer, Mark Hennig, decided to wait longer to start the mare this year so she could recover from her 2002 campaign.

Raging Fever, who won the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps last June at Belmont, hasn't run since finishing third as the favorite in the Grade 2 First Flight here in October. A 5-year-old who raced 10 times last year, she spent some time on the farm before returning to Hennig's Gulfstream Park barn around the first of year.

Hennig, who trains Raging Fever for Edward Evans, said he had no plans to run Raging Fever at the Gulfstream meet and had been targeting the Distaff all along.

"She really has been doing well with the time off and has put on some weight and filled out," Hennig said.

Raging Fever arrived in New York with a few of Hennig's other horses on Thursday. Hennig said he expects the majority of his New York division to be in place at Belmont by April 1.

Pletcher's New York plans

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent nine horses to New York from Florida on Thursday, including Smok'n Frolic, the likely favorite in Sunday's Grade 3 Next Move.

Among the Aqueduct stakes Pletcher is targeting in the next month are the $750,000 Wood Memorial for Indy Dancer, third in last Saturday's Florida Derby, and the $200,000 Excelsior Handicap on April 5 for Balto Star, who finished ninth as the favorite in the New Orleans Handicap on March 2.

Last year, Pletcher won 14 stakes on the New York Racing Association circuit. He is scheduled to leave on Tuesday for Dubai, where he will saddle Harlan's Holiday in Saturday's $6 million Dubai World Cup.

Finally, the main event

After a 10-day delay, Aqueduct's main track opened on Friday for the first time since Dec. 1. Thursday's heavy rains left the track muddy for the first six races, and it was upgraded to good for the remainder of the card. Although the temperatures climbed into the high 50's, Friday was a murky day, with occasional fog creeping across the track.

Private Lap, with John Velazquez in the saddle, won the featured eighth race, a $56,000 allowance.

* Apprentice Pablo Fragoso won his first race, aboard Private Retreat, a Hennig-trained horse, in Friday's second race. Fragoso also finished second aboard longshot Dr Richard Walker in the opener.