01/16/2003 12:00AM

Red-hot Luzzi's lining up mounts


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Mike Luzzi is a wanted man.

"My clients are winning and when you win the phone rings," Luzzi said about 90 minutes before riding Quppy ($21.80) to victory in Thursday's third race at Aqueduct.

Luzzi would later guide Cats Fury ($10.20) to a front-running victory in the featured eighth race, giving him five winners the last two days and 24 for the meet. That puts him firmly in third place in the standings, trailing only Javier Castellano (39) and Richard Migliore (26).

Though Luzzi has had his most success for trainer Bruce Levine - for whom he has ridden seven winners since the inner track opened - Luzzi has ridden winners for 14 other trainers at this meet.

Luzzi's success has not gone unnoticed, as trainer Jimmy Jerkens has asked him to ride Snake Mountain, who heads a strong entry in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000, Aqueduct Handicap. Luzzi replaces Jose Santos, who has a commitment at Gulfstream Park.

Luzzi will be aiming for his third stakes win in the last four weeks. He won the Grade 3 Ladies with Critical Eye on Dec. 21 and the Grade 3 Gallant Fox Handicap with Coyote Lakes on Dec. 28.

Luzzi, 33, is riding as well now as he ever has since he came to New York from Maryland in the winter of 1993-94. Luzzi won 10 stakes in '94 and finished as New York's second-leading rider behind Jorge Chavez.

Coming off a 3-for-87 meet at Saratoga, Luzzi rebounded with a solid Belmont fall meet, winning 21 races from 139 mounts.

"We had an excellent Belmont fall meet, we rolled it over into [Aqueduct's] outer track meet, and it's all been a snowball effect," Luzzi said.

Being successful in New York was a major goal for Luzzi ever since he won the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice in 1989. Not only has his career flourished here, but he also met his wife, Tonia, in New York. The couple has two children, Lane, 5, and LaRue, 2.

"I feel balanced," Luzzi said. "I've got a good home life and things are good at work. My agent, Roger Sutton, and I have been getting along great."

While he has enjoyed success in New York in the winter, Luzzi has toyed with the idea of wintering in Florida, something many of New York's top riders do annually. A few years ago, Luzzi purchased a condo in Hallandale, Fla., a mile from Gulfstream Park.

"If the right opportunity ever came along, sure I'd go down there," Luzzi said. "If you're chasing a 3-year-old or somebody says, 'Listen I want you to ride first call.' In horse racing, you've got to keep your options open. I wouldn't go down there empty-handed. I just wouldn't pick up and say I'm going down there."

Clocker-stand ban miffs horsemen

Horsemen are irate because of a new rule that bans them from the upper level of the clockers' stand at Belmont Park's training track. The rule went into effect Thursday as a maintenance crew put up a new door on the second level.

Horsemen must watch their horses train from the bottom level of the stand or outside. The Belmont training track, open year-round, is the only track open for training from Dec. 1 to April 1.

According to management and the stewards, there are several reasons trainers are not permitted upstairs. One is that by allowing trainers upstairs, it is easier for them to get information about other trainers' horses for claiming purposes. Second, the noise of trainers' conversations can be distracting to the clockers. Third, clockers have complained about items being stolen.

"Trainers would come up here and they would just hang out," said Sackie Garnett, the supervisor of clockers. "It could be a distraction and cause a communication breakdown."

"That top floor was never established for trainers to go there in the first place," New York Racing Association president Terry Meyocks said. "The only reason they went up there was because we were giving out programs. It's important that clockers can do their jobs. With 30 or 40 trainers in a small area it's difficult for them to do that."

The rule left some horsemen angry and others perplexed Thursday morning.

"We can talk all day long about the problems they have here," said John DeStefano, who initially thought the rule was a joke. "I just want to know what that's a solution to."

"I think it's a big disadvantage not to clock from up here," said Loretta Lusteg, assistant to trainer John Kimmel. "It's very difficult to see the three-eighths pole, and you can't see the five-eighths pole from downstairs. It's hard for assistant trainers as well as the trainer to properly clock your horse, so you how do know what condition the horses are in?"

"Why don't they just lock us up in the barn while our horses are training?" said Richard Schosberg, who had just heard about the rule. "I just figured they had extra sheet rock and nothing to do."

Evening Attire enjoying vacation

Evening Attire, winner of last year's Aqueduct Handicap as well as the Jockey Club Gold Cup, is enjoying an extended vacation on a farm in Unionville, Pa., trainer Pat Kelly said.

Kelly said he opted to keep Evening Attire close by in case he and his owners decided to go to the Dubai World Cup. But that race has been all but ruled out, Kelly said. Kelly does not know when Evening Attire will return to the barn or where he will make his next start. The Massachusetts Handicap, which has been moved to June 14, is one of the early goals, he said.

"How we get to it and all that stuff, I don't know," Kelly said.

* Peeping Tom, the 2001 Carter Handicap winner, finished second in a $60,000 claiming race on Thursday, his first start since last June 22 when he finished sixth for $50,000.

* Beginning Jan. 29 New York Racing Association will begin taking pick six wagers on California racing.