12/04/2002 12:00AM

Servis giving New York first full-time shot


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jason Servis on Wednesday was in the process of moving his stable from deserted Monmouth Park to Belmont Park. He hopes someday it will be a permanent change.

Servis will make his first full foray into New York this winter with a 19-horse string for the inner track meet. He got off to somewhat of a disappointing start Wednesday when Zacharov finished fourth as the favorite in the ninth race.

"I always wanted to be in New York. I hope to end up as a regular in New York eventually," Servis said Wednesday morning from New Jersey. "I went up there last year with a couple of horses. I'm pretty confident. I'm feeling pretty good about it, no worries, no pressure."

Servis, 45, the older brother of trainer John Servis and the brother-in-law of Florida-based trainer Eddie Plesa, has been an assistant most of his life. New York Racing Association records show he has run 10 horses in New York since last December, scoring with longshots Hattab Be You ($76.50) and Romancer ($58.50) over Aqueduct's main track last spring.

Servis's stable grew this summer when Dennis Drazin, a prominent owner in New Jersey, gave him a string of horses to train. Servis went 6 for 29 at Monmouth.

One of his best horses is Tempest Fugit, a gelding he claimed for $75,000 in April from Carlos Martin and Flying Zee Stable. In six starts since, Tempest Fugit has won two stakes and finished second in two others. He finished last in the off-the-turf Cliff Hanger Handicap at The Meadowlands in his last start.

Servis said he was concerned about running Tempest Fugit in the Cliff Hanger because he was coming off a tough race winning the Eight Thirty Stakes at Delaware Park 17 days earlier.

"I didn't want to run him, but it was a four-horse field for $150,000 and it was off the turf," Servis said. "He bounced, it was too much for him."

Servis had been pointing Tempest Fugit to Saturday's Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct, but said he is only 50-50 to run because the gelding hasn't been able to train the last week.

"We lost our track five or six days ago, and we've only been jogging inside the barn," Servis said. "If you're going to run against those kind of horses, you'd like to be able to train up to the race."

Among the horses Servis will be running at this meet that he is high on are Sunrise Slew, a 2-year-old filly by Seattle Slew, In C.C's Honor, who is being freshened after running fifth in the Maryland Million Sprint, and K.O.'s Crypto, a consistent veteran claimer.

McKee begins with a win

It took only 72.73 seconds for John McKee to find Aqueduct's winner's circle.

McKee, the 21-year-old apprentice rider who broke two of Steve Cauthen's Midwest records, made a successful New York debut Wednesday guiding Puncher to a 2 1/4-length victory in the first. McKee finished the day with one win from four mounts.

"I think I like it here," McKee said after winning the opener for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.

Despite receiving a ton of publicity, McKee said he feels no pressure to continue the success he achieved at River Downs and Churchill Downs, where he eclipsed Cauthen's record for number of wins by an apprentice.

"I don't think I have anything to lose," said McKee, who has ridden 173 winners this year. "I'll just go out there and give it 110 percent for everybody."

Ground Storm readies for winter

With Evening Attire likely to skip the handicap races run over the inner track, Ground Storm could be a significant player in the division this winter. Last winter, Ground Storm went 3 for 4 over the inner track, including a victory in the Grade 3 Stymie Handicap. His lone loss was a second-place finish to Evening Attire in the Aqueduct Handicap.

Next month's Aqueduct Handicap could be on Ground Storm's agenda provided he runs well in an upcoming allowance race. On Wednesday, Ground Storm worked a leisurely five furlongs in 1:05.82 seconds over Belmont's training track.

"The [exercise] rider told me his computer chip was frozen," quipped Leana Willaford, the assistant trainer for Bill Mott. "He kind of two-minute-licked away from there, but he's doing well. His last race was against some toughies."

Ground Storm last ran in an Oct. 20 allowance race against Lido Palace. He finished third. Lido Palace came back to win last week's Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill.