02/15/2006 12:00AM

Signs point to Carminooch

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Carminooch wins the Gander over a good inner track at Aqueduct in November. Rain is in Friday's forecast.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - For the first time in three meetings in their budding New York-bred rivalry, Gold and Roses got the better of Carminooch when he was a perfect-trip winner of last month's Mellow Roll Stakes.

When Gold and Roses and Carminooch meet again in Friday's $60,000 Ave's Flag Stakes for statebreds, there are few things that may play in Carminooch's favor. The Ave's Flag, run at 1 1/16 miles, drew a field of eight.

A forecast that calls for a 60 percent chance of rain may benefit Carminooch, who has 3 wins in 4 starts over wet tracks, including a seven-length score in the Gander Stakes over a good inner track on Nov. 30. Second, there is a four-pound weight shift between the two from the Mellow Roll as Gold and Roses carries 124 pounds on Friday, two more than Carminooch, who carried 124 in the Mellow Roll.

The third thing that may make a difference is the addition of blinkers to Carminooch's equipment. According to Seth Benzel, the assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, Carminooch fell too far off the early pace in the Alex Robb, when he was third, and the Mellow Roll, when he was second.

"Therefore, we've taken a different approach and added some blinkers to see if that puts him forwardly placed enough where he can be in a stalking position," Benzel said.

Benzel said that has worked once in blinkers, and though the time was a relatively slow 1:03.80 for five furlongs, the horse "was more aggressive. Hopefully, it'll carry over to the race."

Carminooch also drew better than Gold and Roses as he'll break from post 5 Friday under Mike Luzzi while Gold and Roses is stuck on the outside under Eibar Coa.

has been a model of consistency with 11 top-two finishes from 16 lifetime starts. A bit headstrong, Gold and Roses was able to sit two lengths behind dueling leaders in the Mellow Roll before taking command around the turn and drawing clear to a 2 3/4-length victory.

"Halfway down the backside I thought, 'Don't hold him too much more,' " trainer Tom Bush said. "Then I saw the half in 47 [seconds], and that was a pretty stiff half-mile. He was just beginning to resent [being restrained], then he gave him his head and he had a nice turn of foot."

There may be a decent pace again Friday with Taking the Redeye and Mr. Determined in the field.

has continued his affinity for the inner track with 2 wins from 3 starts this winter, but he is 0 for 7 over a wet track.