03/26/2003 1:00AM

Raging Fever begins new season in Distaff


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Given all Raging Fever has done in her first three years of racing, it would have been no surprise had her owner, Edward Evans, decided to retire and breed her.

According to trainer Mark Hennig, the decision to keep Raging Fever in training wasn't a difficult one.

"He didn't sound like he was mulling it over too much," Hennig said of Evans. "When he discussed who he wanted to race and who he wanted to breed, she was one of the ones he wanted to race."

Raging Fever has been one of the most consistent racehorses of either sex over the last three years. After winning her maiden at first asking at 2, Raging Fever has competed in 18 consecutive stakes, 16 of which were graded. She has won nine stakes - including three Grade 1's - ranging in distance from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles over five different tracks.

Saturday, Raging Fever will make her 5-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap, a race she won last year.

After having the bulk of her 3-year-old season interrupted by a stifle injury, Raging Fever enjoyed a full 4-year-old campaign, winning four graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. She appeared to tail off in the fall, finishing last in the Grade 1 Ruffian after dueling through fast fractions before running second in the Gallant Bloom and third in the First Flight.

Hennig said he should have scratched Raging Fever from the Ruffian after drawing the rail. He said the other two races were "indicative of the long year she had. . . . I think the long, drawn-out campaign had taken its toll a little bit."

Hennig said he would look at running Raging Fever in many of the same races she competed in last year, such as the Bed o' Roses and Ogden Phipps. Hennig also said he and Evans will have to decide whether to pursue any of the Breeders' Cup races. Raging Fever finished sixth as the favorite in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

With Hennig and Evans having a top Breeders' Cup Distaff contender in Summer Colony and top sprinter in Gygistar, Raging Fever may be given the opportunity to prove herself on turf with perhaps the Breeders' Cup Mile in mind.

"It could happen," Hennig said of trying Raging Fever on turf.

In Saturday's Distaff, Raging Fever will vie for favoritism with Carson Hollow, winner of last year's Grade 1 Prioress Stakes. Others expected to run include A.P. Andie, Outstanding Info, Saskya, and Bonefide Reason.

Halo Homewrecker Bay Shore bound

Hennig confirmed on Wednesday that Halo Homewrecker, a 6 3/4-length entry-level allowance winner at Gulfstream on Saturday, will make his next start in the $150,000 Bay Shore Stakes here on April 12.

Halo Homewrecker, a son of Southern Halo, has won both of his starts this year since returning from injury. Though he won by open lengths on Saturday, jockey Jerry Bailey did have to resort to the whip at the quarter pole.

Hennig said that Bailey told him Halo Homewrecker appeared "to go to sleep" entering the far turn. "When he reached back and hit him he was gone again," Hennig said. "He hit that gear so fast, [Bailey] was surprised."

Halo Homewrecker has run only three times, and Hennig is expecting big things from the 3-year-old as the year progresses.

"I think he's just still learning," Hennig said. "Hopefully, he learns a little more between races and keeps improving little by little."

Toboggan rematch in Carter

Affirmed Success and Peeping Tom, the last two winners of the Carter Handicap and the one-two finishers in the Toboggan Handicap, are both confirmed to run in the Grade 1 Carter on April 12.

Affirmed Success, who beat Peeping Tom by one length in the Toboggan, has trainer Richard Schosberg extremely excited about defending the Carter title he won last year.

"He looks great, he's all dappled out, and his flesh is just terrific right now," Schosberg said. "If everything goes good, we're going to try again."

Schosberg said Affirmed Success would probably have two works before the Carter.

Meanwhile, Peeping Tom, the 2001 Carter winner, breezed three furlongs in 37.99 seconds Monday morning over Belmont's training track. "Just something to keep him happy," trainer Pat Reynolds said.

- Belmont Park's main track will be open for training on Tuesday.