12/05/2002 12:00AM

'Snake' needs a good trip


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The field for Saturday's $100,000 Queens County Handicap at Aqueduct is very similar to that of last month's Stuyvesant Handicap. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens hopes his Snake Mountain can get a similar trip and result in the Grade 3 Queens County.

In the Stuyvesant, Snake Mountain received a ground-saving trip under Jose Santos, who waited for an opening along the rail turning for home and guided his horse on through en route to a half-length victory over Windsor Castle.

Docent, the third-place finisher in the Stuyvesant, raced wide the entire trip and tired late, finishing third. Cat's at Home, who also raced wide in the Stuyvesant, finished fourth after making an early move. Both of those horses are back in the eight-horse Queens County field.

"We had a great trip last time, we need a trip like that again,'' Jerkens said. "We got a good jockey who knows how to give him a good trip. The thing with the inner track is saving ground means a lot more.''

Snake Mountain, the 117-pound highweight, will break from post 7 in the Queens County, which is run at 1 3/16 miles. The Queens County will start in upper stretch, giving Santos time to secure position going into the first turn aboard Snake Mountain, who won his maiden by 12 lengths over the inner track in February.

Though the Queens County is longer than any of Snake Mountain's previous victories, the distance is not as much a concern to Jerkens as how the race may shape up. Jerkens fears Jarf, the front-running winner of the Kelso Stakes at Delaware Park in October, could steal the race up front.

"Going longer, sometimes the speed horses have an easier time of it, it makes them a little tougher,'' Jerkens said. "The distance itself I'm not concerned about. I'm worried about a speed horse like Jarf getting an easy lead.''

Jarf, under Richard Migliore, drew the outside post and may have to work to get the lead. Pleasant Breeze, who also likes to run close to the pace, will break from the rail under Shaun Bridgmohan.

Docent looms the most serious threat to Snake Mountain. Eleven days after his third-place finish in the Stuyvesant, Docent shipped to West Virginia and won the Mountaineer Mile Handicap. Trainer Tim Ritchey said Docent had such an easy time of it at Mountaineer that he is not concerned with this being his third start in 32 days.

"He did it very easily at Mountaineer,'' Ritchey said. "He only ran a half-mile. The distance shouldn't matter, he'll run as far as they write them.''

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