02/09/2004 1:00AM

Perkins hands ball to Tempting Note

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Ben Perkins Jr. hopes to end an unusually long winter drought Wednesday at Aqueduct when he sends out in the $60,000 Nijana Stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

The Nijana, run at 1 1/16 miles, is the eighth race on a nine-race card that includes a pick six carryover of $32,792.

Perkins, one of the mid-Atlantic based trainers who usually does well during the winter in New York, is 0 for 18 since the inner track opened two months ago. Tempting Note looked like a winner in mid-stretch of the Busanda, but lost all of a 2 1/2-length advantage in the final furlong to Island Sand, and had to settle for second.

Tempting Note may have made a premature move in the Busanda, but Perkins wasn't blaming jockey Mike Luzzi, who is back aboard Wednesday.

"She looked like she was trying to fight him and fight him and finally he let her go," Perkins said. "She made a nice move, and it looked like she opened up. She was just second best."

Perkins had thought about running Tempting Note in the upcoming Jameela Stakes for Maryland-breds at Laurel on Saturday, but didn't want to cut her back to the six-furlong distance of that race. Tempting Note is 2 for 2 at 1 1/16 miles.

Perkins said his plan is to run Tempting Note in this race then freshen her up for the summer at Monmouth Park.

"She's a tall, lean filly and I'd like to give her a chance to develop," he said.

The horse to beat in the Nijana is , a New York-bred daughter of Runaway Groom who is 2 for 2 since stretching out around two turns. She has the leading trainer, Richard Dutrow Jr., and leading rider Pablo Fragoso, in her corner, and blew out a swift half-mile in 47.25 seconds on Sunday at Aqueduct.

"I'm very, very happy with her last race. She surprised me that she won like that," said Dutrow, noting that Mistda had to rally wide and still won by almost six lengths.

Taittinger Rose, the beaten favorite in the Busanda, will try to rebound in the Nijana. She was well back off a slow pace and had to rally five wide. She flattened out after reaching contention and was beaten 8 1/2 lengths.

Georgetown Gal, a front-running maiden winner last out, and Special Tactics, a sprinter stretching out, are the speed of the race.

Lure of Gold, Exclusively Wild, Miss Park Place, Via Sacra, and Shout complete the lineup.