02/17/2006 1:00AM

Scrappy T tunes up for season debut

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Jim Linscott
Scrappy T, away since November, recently resumed training.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Scrappy T, a multiple-stakes-winning 3-year-old of 2005 and the runner-up in the Preakness, began working towards his 4-year-old debut Friday by breezing three furlongs in 37.96 seconds over the Belmont Park training track.

The move, with jockey Ramon Dominguez in the irons, was Scrappy T's first recorded workout since he finished sixth in last November's Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. Following that race - Scrappy T's only out-of-the-money finish in 13 lifetime starts - he was sent to Ocala, Fla., for a freshening. He returned to trainer Robbie Bailes's Belmont Park barn about two weeks ago.

Scrappy T debuted in September of his 2-year-old season and raced 10 times through the Preakness on May 21. Last winter, he won the Count Fleet and Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct. He is best known for being the horse that slammed into Afleet Alex at the top of the stretch in the Preakness. Afleet Alex went on to a 4 3/4-length victory while Scrappy T finished five lengths clear of Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo.

Scrappy T was found to have an injured back muscle during the summer and he didn't return to the races until Oct. 1, when he finished second in the Indiana Derby. He also finished second in the Discovery before running poorly in the Cigar Mile.

"The whole time off deal mainly was nothing to do with the physical part of it, just basically he has been going at it since he was a 2-year-old," Bailes said. "We decided to give him a little vacation, turn him out and let him be a horse for a while. He had 30 days off, then he's been jogging the last 30 days. Now, we're just trying to get an idea of how much fitness he lost."

Bailes said the work was satisfactory, but that Dominguez told him Scrappy T "might have got a little tired at the end of it," Bailes said.

Bailes does not have a specific race picked out for Scrappy T's return, but did mention the General George on March 18 at Laurel Park and the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 8 at Aqueduct as races he is considering.

Toups to miss three weeks

Apprentice jockey Randall Toups will miss a minimum of three weeks with a broken lower lumbar vertebra in his back suffered in a spill during the fifth race Thursday at Aqueduct. Toups also suffered a mild concussion as a result of the spill, which forced him to spend the night in North Shore University Hospital. Toups was released on Friday.

Thursday, Toups was thrown from his mount, Mambo Loco, and then appeared to get stepped on by a trailing horse.

Randy Romero, Toups's agent, said Toups would need two to three weeks to heal and then need perhaps another week to regain his fitness. Toups has 11 wins in 181 mounts at this meet.

No four-peat try by Papua

Trainer Mike Hushion will seek his fourth consecutive victory in the Hollie Hughes, but it won't be with the horse with whom he has won the last three.

Hushion will start Casper Peterson in the Hollie Hughes, but will keep Papua - who has won this race the last three years - in the barn. Papua, a 7-year-old son of Louis Quatorze, has not run since finishing third in the Hudson Handicap last Oct. 22.

Hushion said Papua's most recent work, a half-mile move in 49.70 seconds on Wednesday, was not as strong as he would have hoped.

"It was just a decision to wait," he said. "There's a better spot coming up in the condition book, and I'll be able to get one more work in him."

Hushion said the Hollie Hughes was on the radar for Papua, but last weekend's snowstorm forced him to miss two days of training that Hushion felt he needed.

"We were on a really close schedule," Hushion said. "The snowstorm backed us up a day or two and the work was not as fast as I wanted. Even though he finished real good, it was a concern."

Carminooch takes Ave's Flag

Carminooch, second to Gold and Roses in last month's Mellow Roll Stakes, turned the tables on that rival Friday by running past Gold and Roses approaching the sixteenth pole and drawing clear for a four-length win in the $62,500 Ave's Flag Stakes. It was 11 3/4 lengths back to Lord Langfuhr in third.

The connections of Carminooch equipped him with blinkers for the first time, and he was able to stay closer to the pace than he had in his previous two races. Jockey Mike Luzzi had Carminooch, just behind Gold and Roses as both horses let longshot Naragansett open up a clear lead through modest fractions.

Gold and Roses took the lead at the three-eighths pole and Carminooch set sail after him around the turn. He collared Gold and Roses in upper stretch and edged away late. Carminooch, trained by Todd Pletcher, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.96 over a fast track and returned $4.70 as the second choice.

Dearly Precious tops Presidents card

The $65,000 Dearly Precious Stakes for 3-year-old fillies highlights Monday's Presidents Day card.

Silvestris, 1 1/4-length winner of the Ruthless Stakes here on Jan. 2, heads what was shaping up to be a short field in the six-furlong Dearly Precious. Friday, Silvestris blew out a half-mile in 49.72 seconds.

Others expected to run are Always a Star, Oprah Winney, Ring True, and Vasa. Possible starters are Gently and Mississippi Madam.

* Dominguez rode four winners on Friday, giving him 50 for the meet. He is in third place in the rider standings, 17 behind Eibar Coa, despite not riding here the first month of the meet.