04/03/2003 12:00AM

Paasch keen on local stakes scene

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Last April, trainer Christopher Paasch shipped Roman Dancer to New York from Southern California and he sprung a minor upset in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes.

Next Saturday, Paasch - who has moved his operation to Kentucky - will try to double his pleasure in the Big Apple when he sends Roman Dancer to Aqueduct for the Grade 1 Carter and Bossanova for the Grade 3 Bay Shore.

Roman Dancer sustained a chip in his knee shortly after the Bay Shore and did not return to the races until New Year's Day when he finished last in the Grade 3 El Conejo Handicap at Santa Anita.

Paasch said he had tried to enter Roman Dancer in an allowance race several times at Santa Anita since then, but none would fill. The lack of suitable races for his horses was one reason why Paasch has left Southern California.

Paasch has been pleased with how Roman Dancer has been training the last few weeks, but knows facing the likes of Congaree, Affirmed Success, Peeping Tom, and possibly Crafty C.T. in the Carter is a huge undertaking for a horse that has raced once in a year.

"It's going to be a really tough race, it's definitely going to be a Grade 1 stakes with the caliber of horses that are going to be in there,'' Paasch said. "I think a lot of this horse and right now it's the only option for us. I think it's time for Roman Dancer to prove himself.''

In the Bay Shore, Bossanova will try to bounce back from a last-place finish in the Grade 3 San Miguel at Santa Anita. Bossanova, a son of Pine Bluff, went into that race following a four-length maiden win in late December.

"The thing about that maiden race was he went out there in 43-and-2 and still finished the way he finished,'' Paasch said.

According to Paasch, Bossanova got stepped on leaving the gate of the San Miguel and jockey Alex Solis protected the horse after that. Tuesday, Bossanova worked a bullet six furlongs in 1:13 at Keeneland in company with Crowned Dancer, Paasch's top 3-year-old distance horse.

Paasch said his two horses would ship in from Kentucky Tuesday.

'Sandy' gets 32nd win

Fans of Say Florida Sandy were rewarded with a $14.60 mutuel Thursday when the venerable 9-year-old son of Personal Flag got up in the final strides for a head victory over odds-on favorite Here's Zealous in a six-furlong classified allowance race.

The $14.60 was the most Say Florida Sandy returned since he won the 2000 Gravesend Handicap, returning $15.40.

The victory was the 32nd for Say Florida Sandy in his 95th career start. The all-time leading New York-bred earner pushed his career earnings to $2,038,937. It was Say Florida Sandy's first win since last Nov. 8 when he won a classified allowance race over the main track.

Trainer Victor Cuadra said he

didn't know where Say Florida Sandy would run next, but one option is the Bold Ruler May 10 at Belmont, a race Say Florida Sandy won in 2001.

"We'll give him his usual break, 25 days to a month, because it doesn't get any easier from here,'' Cuadra said.

Bravo legging up for return

Jockey Joe Bravo, who has ridden just two months since breaking his left leg in July 2001, has gotten on horses the last two mornings at Belmont Park as he attempts another comeback. Bravo jogged one horse on both Wednesday and Thursday for trainer Kelly Breen and said he felt no pain in his left leg, which had a rod inserted into it in February.

"Right now, it's just a testing process, a lot of up and down motion to test my leg, knees, and ankles, and so far everything feels great,'' Bravo said.

Bravo said he was pleasantly surprised to have received clearance from doctors to begin getting on horses. He said he is purposely taking it slow and hopes to be able to begin riding in New York by mid-May to get ready for the Monmouth Park meet that begins Memorial Day.

"The ideal thing would be to ride two weeks here in New York - hopefully, we get the mounts - and I could work all my cobwebs out,'' Bravo said. "I want to ride at Monmouth Park and then come to New York for the winter and be a New York rider after that.''

Fragoso trumps Orseno's bid for 2,000

In recording his fifth career victory aboard High Priced in Thursday's fourth race, apprentice rider Pablo Fragoso short-circuited trainer Joe Orseno's bid for his 2,000th career victory.

Orseno sent out 4-5 favorite Tough Johnny G in the $25,000 claiming race, and Tough Johnny G made the pace before being run down late by High Priced and Fragoso.

Fragoso, a 20-year-old native of Mexico, began riding in January and recorded his first win March 21, opening day of the main-track meet. Through Thursday, he is 5 for 23 at the meet. With his victory, he became a seven-pound apprentice.

Fragoso has been an exercise rider for trainers such as Kiaran McLaughlin, Mark Hennig, and Todd Pletcher.

Meanwhile, Orseno was on his way to Keeneland when Thursday's race was run. Orseno, who had been owner Frank Stronach's private trainer for five years, has been a public trainer for the last several months. He will maintain a string in Delaware and New York, as well as a small string at Keeneland.

"My feeling is people coming off contracts have a tough time getting started back because they're not willing to take a step backwards,'' Orseno, 47, said. "I'm not afraid to work and I like winning too much to sit still.''

In 2000, Orseno won the Preakness with Red Bullet, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Macho Uno, and the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf with Perfect Sting. Macho Uno and Perfect Sting were crowned champions.