02/17/2007 12:00AM

Smash 'Em Sammy to lay back

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A new running style has led to newfound success for Smash 'Em Sammy this winter. Monday, the speedster-turned-closer will tackle his toughest challenge to date in the $65,000 Fred "Cappy" Capossela Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters at Aqueduct.

Smash 'Em Sammy, a New York-bred son of Rizzi, will take on Jimmy Winkfield Stakes winner Bill Place and four others in the six-furlong stakes race, the featured event on a nine-race Presidents' Day card.

Smash 'Em Sammy, trained by Scott Schwartz, went gate to wire to win his debut, a maiden $50,000 claiming event at Saratoga. He finished sixth in both of his next two starts, though in one of those he broke through the gate before the start of the race.

On Dec. 8, when racing against claimers again, Smash 'Em Sammy was checked early down the backside and found himself behind three horses entering the far turn. Jockey Chuck Lopez swung him four wide in the stretch, and he finished powerfully to win by 4 1/2 lengths. In his next start, Smash 'Em Sammy was checked coming out of the gate before rallying wide in the stretch to finish second behind Landofopportunity.

Eight days after that, Smash 'Em Sammy came from off the pace to win the Fabersham Stakes, restricted to New York-breds.

Schwartz said that after the Dec. 8 race his view of Smash 'Em Sammy changed.

"From that day on, I said [forget] going to the lead, he's going to start closing," Schwartz said. "In his next start, he came out of the gate very slow and he flew home. His last race he was kept closer and he won."

With Wollaston Bay and Landofopportunity in the field, there should be enough speed to aid Smash 'Em Sammy, who will break from post 3 under Lopez.

Smash 'Em Sammy will have to outfinish Bill Place to win the Capossela. Since being claimed for $50,000 by Anthony Dutrow, Bill Place has won 2 of 3 starts. His lone loss came when Dutrow tried to stretch him out past six furlongs. Bill Place won last month's Jimmy Winkfield from on the pace, but that was because there were only two other horses in the field.

"Actually, it's a credit to him that he was able to change his ideal way of racing," Dutrow said. Jockey Ramon Dominguez, said Dutrow, "had to go after that one earlier than he would have liked to. I think that he can go back to his preferred running style Monday."

Eibar Coa will ride Bill Place from the rail.

Five Towns and Ease complete the field.