04/19/2004 11:00PM

Slew Valley losing, but not struggling

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Gary Sciacca says he feels confident that Slew Valley will snap his 0-for-17 losing streak in stakes when he runs the 7-year-old in Saturday's $100,000-added Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct. The Grade 3 Fort Marcy, the first grass stakes of the year in New York, will be run at 1 1/16 miles.

"I think, personally, he'll just gallop," Sciacca said Tuesday morning at Belmont Park, after Slew Valley worked a half-mile in 48.03 seconds. "I can't fault anything with him right now. He's on his game."

Owned by Rich Meadow Farm, Slew Valley won his last start by one length in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park on March 12. It was his first win since June 2001, when he won an optional claimer at Delaware Park for Michael Dickinson, his trainer at the time.

Even though he sports a losing record in stakes, Slew Valley has run well in several graded races, including a pair of third-place finishes in back-to-back runnings of the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga and a second in last year's Grade 1 Man o' War at Belmont.

He has also shown plenty of durability. On Jan. 25, only eight weeks after traveling to and from Japan to run in the Japan Cup - in which he finished 13th - Slew Valley finished second in the Grade 3 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park after setting the pace in the 1 3/8-mile race.

"If he hadn't been doing so well after his trip to Japan, I might have done some thing different with him," Sciacca said. "What's amazing is how he keeps his weight and has so little problems."

Jorge Chavez has the mount on Slew Valley, who will surpass $500,000 in earnings if he wins the Fort Marcy. Slew Valley, the 119-pound highweight, is not expected to face a large field.

As of Tuesday, the racing office also had Charge, Remind, and Steadfast and True as probable starters.

Mike Brice, Rogue Agent's trainer, said he might run whether the race is on the turf or dirt. Union Place and Infinite Justice are listed as possible to start. Trainer Del Carroll II said Quantum Merit, a stakes-winning gelding who would have vied for favoritism with Slew Valley, was not quite ready to run.

"With all the bad weather, I got behind getting him ready," Carroll said. "It's very tempting, but I've got all year."

Gygistar's next could be at a mile

Trainer Mark Hennig said he might run Gygistar in the $100,000-added Westchester Handicap at a mile on opening day at Belmont Park, May 5.

The last time Gygistar ran beyond seven furlongs was in July 2002, when he won the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer, a Grade 2 race for 3-year-olds. In his last start, Gygistar finished fourth in the Grade 1 Carter on April 10. His last stakes win came in the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga in 2002.

"He's lost a little bit of his speed, so I'm thinking of stretching him a little farther," Hennig said. "The Westchester might be the spot. He's won at a mile and a sixteenth, so I think he'll stretch out fine."

Change of plans takes Timo to Woodlawn

Trainer Bill Badgett has a new game plan in place for Timo, who won the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland on April 2 in his last start.

Last week, Badgett was considering the $100,000 Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park on May 31 for Timo's next race. Upon further consideration, Badgett said he preferred the timing of the $100,000 Woodlawn Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day, May 15.

Badgett said the 1 1/16-mile Woodlawn would be followed by the Grade 3 Hill Prince at Belmont Park on June 6.

"Those races should get him to the Chicago races," Badgett said, referring to the three-race grass series for 3-year-olds at Arlington Park during the summer.

Injury will keep Cuba out several weeks

Cuba, who finished eighth at odds of 86-1 in his stakes debut in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on April 10, came out of the race with a badly inflamed shin. Tom Bush, Cuba's trainer, said Cuba will need to spend several weeks on the sidelines to recover.

"I never had a problem with him before," Bush said. "That track was insane that day, and it boggles the mind that 3-year-olds went [1:20.67] in the Bay Shore. With a track that hard, a horse is more likely to injure himself."

A son of Not for Love, Cuba won a maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths in February and was second in a first-level allowance race, four weeks before the Wood Memorial.

Mischievously heads field of six

A second-level allowance race for fillies and mares is Thursday's $45,000 feature. The seven-furlong race drew a field of six.

Among the runners is Mischievously, who closed strongly in her last start to finish third at this level for trainer Todd Pletcher. Edgar Prado rides.

Two Bayou, the lone 3-year-old in the field, was outclassed when she ran in the Comely here on April 9, but fits well with this bunch. Mike Luzzi has the mount.