01/06/2007 12:00AM

Paragallo calls audible in Count Fleet


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With the abundance of speed entered in Saturday's Count Fleet Stakes, Norberto Arroyo Jr., the jockey of Pink Viper, thought he would use his rail post position to give his horse a ground-saving, off-the-pace trip.

Ernie Paragallo, the authorized agent for his family-owned Paraneck Stable, had a different idea.

Paragallo's plan to put Pink Viper into the race from the outset paid huge dividends as Pink Viper won the $70,856 Count Fleet by 1 1/4 lengths over the 6-5 favorite, Johannesburg Star, before a crowd of 4,053 on a 70-degree day at Aqueduct. It was one length back to Sir Whimsey, who got third by a neck over No Reply.

Though longshot Here to Please outfooted Pink Viper for the early lead, Arroyo had his horse in second position down the backstretch, just 1 1/2 lengths behind Here to Please after a half-mile run in 47.04 seconds. Pink Viper took a short lead midway on the far turn, and battled back along the rail in the stretch after Johannesburg Star had overtaken him at the quarter pole.

Pink Viper, a half-brother to the Grade 2 stakes-placed Flashy Bull, covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:42.94 and returned $18.40 to win. It was only the second win from 11 starts for Pink Viper, a son of Smoke Glacken trained by Alan Klanfer.

"He has to be in the race - when he's in the race he's aggressive," Paragallo said. "So I told Norberto, 'Don't give up your position, park these horses going into the first turn.' These horses, when you park them they're going to lose heart."

Said Arroyo, "Ernie won this race."

Paraneck Stable won this race last year with Achilles of Troy, who was among the early Kentucky Derby favorites before getting injured in the Gotham. Paragallo said he wasn't sure if Pink Viper would be nominated to the Triple Crown series.

While Arroyo followed Paragallo's instructions perfectly, Joe Parker, the trainer of Johannesburg Star, was not happy that jockey C.C. Lopez could not make the lead with his horse. Johannesburg Star, who went gate to wire to win a maiden race over this track on Dec. 9, was fourth early. He did make a brief lead at the five-sixteenths pole, but was outfinished by Pink Viper.

"I couldn't get to the lead, so I did the next best thing, which was to give my horse a chance and hope that it would sort out," Lopez said.

o Jockey Frank Amonte Sr. finished last aboard Eightyninecentsday in Saturday's nightcap. Amonte, 71, was trying to become the first jockey over the age of 70 to win a race.