03/27/2003 1:00AM

'Regal' wins in return

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Regal Sanction, last year's Grade 2 Pegasus Handicap winner, made a successful 4-year-old debut Thursday, taking a seven-furlong allowance race by 1 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct.

Making his first start since a sixth-place finish in the Discovery Handicap last Oct. 23, Regal Sanction raced with the pace three wide under Jose Santos, took a short lead turning for home, and outdueled Our Summer Storm through the stretch. Regal Sanction ($4.80) covered the seven furlongs in a swift 1:22.11. Our Summer Storm held second by a nose over Paynes Bay.

"Pretty impressive," said Santos, who was making his return to New York after wintering at Gulfstream Park. "I know the track is fast, but this was a good effort. He was coming back from a long layoff and he was a winner every step of the way."

Jimmy Jerkens, the trainer of Regal Sanction, was also impressed with the horse, a 4-year-old son of Regal Classic who won for just the third time in 14 starts.

"It was great, it was just what I was looking for," Jerkens said. "I was kind of worried he might not be tight enough, but the track got real fast and that helps a horse bounce along."

Jerkens did not know where he would run Regal Sanction next, but seemed to dismiss the Grade 1 Carter on April 12 despite Regal Sanction being 2 for 2 going the Carter distance of seven furlongs at Aqueduct.

"I don't think so," Jerkens said. "Those horses are a lot tougher. He's good going seven-eighths going against a certain kind; I think his forte might be a little farther."

Vesta sidetracked by illness

It's a good thing trainer Joe Aquilino wasn't planning on running Vesta in Saturday's $150,000 Distaff Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Following a bullet four-furlong workout in 47.88 seconds Wednesday morning at Aqueduct, Vesta scoped with mucus in her lungs. Now, Aquilino is hoping the filly gets well in time to make the $75,000 Primonetta Stakes on April 5 at Pimlico.

"We'll keep her on antibiotics for a few days, then we'll work her and scope her again, and if we got her cleared up we'll probably go to that race," Aquilino said. "If not, then we'll wait for something else."

Aquilino would like to run Vesta in the Primonetta because she won a pair of six-furlong stakes at Pimlico last spring, including the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes.

Aquilino also reported that No Parole, winner of the Mike Lee Stakes last summer, is getting close to a return to the races. On Wednesday, No Parole breezed five furlongs in 1:04 at Aqueduct.

"We'll start to pick it up in his next work, he'll get ready quick," Aquilino said. "We'll look for an allowance race in two or three weeks."

No Parole has not raced since Dec. 7 when he finished fifth in the Kenny Noe Handicap at Calder. He also finished second in the Pegasus and third in both the Jerome and Discovery handicaps.

Unswept headed to Hawthorne

Unswept, a four-length winner of a second-level New York-bred allowance race on Feb. 20, will try open company in the $100,000 Lost Code Breeders' Cup Stakes at Hawthorne Race Course on April 5. The Lost Code, run at six furlongs, heads the undercard on Illinois Derby Day.

The only other time Unswept faced open company was in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes. He finished third behind Alysweep, who came back to win the Gotham.

"We want to try open company at the right level, and with the Lafayette and Bay Shore out there this one might get lost in the shuffle," said Gary Contessa, trainer of Unswept.

On Wednesday, Unswept breezed six furlongs in 1:12.40 at Aqueduct, the fastest of five works at the distance.

"He had a foot problem after his last win but his foot is doing great right now," Contessa said.

* Aqueduct will offer wagering on Saturday's Dubai World Cup from Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. Mutuel windows open at 12:15 p.m.; post for the World Cup is 12:40.

On Sunday, Aqueduct will also take wagering on the WinStar Derby from Sunland Park. Post time is 5:56 p.m.