12/31/2003 12:00AM

Sinister G: He's family


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - If wins Saturday's $75,000 Count Fleet Stakes, it will be a happy day for the Toscano family.

John Toscano Jr. is the trainer of Sinister G, a 3-year-old colt. His sons John III and Rob are majority owners, and another son, Paul, will come in from Florida to ride.

"It's a family affair, and we hope to get it done," the elder Toscano said Wednesday.

Thoroughbred racing has been the Toscano family business for more than 30 years. The elder Toscano trained horses in the 1970's, then became managing partner of the family-run TATT Stable, which in the 1980's owned stakes winners Love That Mac and Miss Unnameable. Toscano went back into training in the early 90's and has been looking for that "big horse" ever since.

The Toscanos hope Sinister G can be that horse. A son of Matty G, Sinister G has one win from three starts. After getting beat by seven lengths in each of his first two starts, Sinister G won his maiden when stretched out to a mile for the first time.

In that race, run in pea soup-thick fog, Sinister G was passed by Torun around the turn but was able to rally past Torun in the stretch to win by 2 1/4 lengths.

"He hasn't reached his full potential yet," Toscano said. "He's a very talented horse. He was a lot greener than we thought. It's taken a couple of races to get his act together. He runs in spots, he goes to the lead, falls back, and then comes on again. When he gets his act together, I think he'll be a real good horse."

John Toscano III and his brother Rob purchased Sinister G, for $67,000 at the Ocala Breeders sales in April. They liked his 21.60-second workout and thought the price was fair since Sinister G's female family was a bit of an unknown. Sinister G is the first foal to race out of the unraced mare Sinister Punch.

The two Toscano brothers are partners in a venture called Vision Bloodstock. The brothers do a lot of pinhooking. They purchased Disco Rico for $45,000 and sold him for $82,000. Disco Rico went on to win several stakes and more than $500,000 for Maryland-based connections. This year, the Toscanos purchased a Meadowlake filly for $50,000 and sold her for $370,000 to B. Wayne Hughes. The filly, trained by Ron Ellis, was named Meadow Soprano, after the character in the hit HBO series.

The Toscanos own Sinister G with Yamille Carlat and Kim Corrado.

'Sunray' works for Paumonok

, who came off a four-month layoff to win a third-level allowance race Dec. 10, worked four furlongs in 48.64 seconds Wednesday morning over the Belmont Park training track. A 5-year-old son of Hennessy, Sunray Spirit is being pointed to the $75,000 Paumonok Handicap on Jan. 24.

Sunray Spirit ran arguably the best race of his life Dec. 10, running six furlongs in 1:09.80 en route to a four-length win. The 101 Beyer Speed Figure he earned equaled a career high, which he was given winning the Grade 3 Cowdin Stakes as a 2-year-old.

Sunray Spirit finished third in an Aug. 20 allowance race at Saratoga, a race in he suffered a foot injury commonly known as a grabbed quarter.

"It took a while to heal," said Art Magnuson, assistant to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. "But he's doing great now."

Velazquez, Pletcher tops in 2003

For the third consecutive year, John Velazquez was the winningest rider in New York, with 230 wins. Richard Migliore finished second with 184, followed by Javier Castellano (174), Edgar Prado (160), and Mike Luzzi (160).

Todd Pletcher led all trainers with 134 victories, 29 more than Richard Dutrow, the New York leader the last two years. Pletcher's win total is the most in a single year by a NYRA trainer since Peter Ferriola won 149 in 1992.

Sanford Goldfarb, the leading owner in 2002, led all owners this year with 40 wins.

Price hikes for Saratoga

The New York Racing Association officially announced its price increases for the 2004 Saratoga season. Grandstand admission and reserved seating will be available for $9 or $10, depending on seat location. In 2003, admission and a reserved seat cost $8 in 2003. Clubhouse seating, coupled with admission, will range from $14 to $17, an increase of $1 to $4 from 2003.

There will be an additional $10 charge per reserved seat on Travers day.

Trackside parking will increase from $7 to $10, while Oklahoma preferred parking stays at $5 and general parking remains free. For $350, patrons can purchase the same reserved parking spot at Oklahoma for the entire meet.

For the Belmont Stakes, the admission price will be incorporated into the seat price. Clubhouse packages will be priced at $45, $30, and $20, and grandstand packages will be $27, $17, and $9.

General parking on Belmont day has been raised from $2 to $5.