10/30/2003 12:00AM

Speedy Relato Del Gato one to beat in Comet


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Six fast 2-year-olds contesting the Comet Stakes and an appearance in a money-allowance race by Grade 1 winner Peeping Tom headline Saturday night's card at The Meadowlands.

Relato Del Gato-Spanish for his sire's name, Tale of the Cat-might be the fastest of all in the $45,000 Comet at six furlongs.

Relato Del Gato won his maiden race at Monmouth and has worked aggressively since then for trainer Linda Rice at Belmont Park.

"This horse has really improved over the past 60 days," Rice said. "His maiden win was very impressive. We had Lissau win a stakes the same day at Monmouth and Relato Del Gato went a full second faster."

Chuckie Lopez, the top rider at the meet, gets the mount, replacing Jose C. Ferrer, who rode first call for Rice all summer at Monmouth. Ferrer has returned to Florida for the winter.

Relato Del Gato drew the rail and could be involved early.

"He doesn't need to have the lead," Rice said. "I won't be surprised to see him there. He is that fast."

Dennisport and Southern Trial, a pair of New England runners, could be the major threats.

Dennisport, trained by Archie Ricciardi, won his maiden race in his fourth attempt at Suffolk Downs.

Southern Trial has done all his running in New York and has a win and a second in three starts. He is based in Charles Assimakopoulos's barn at Suffolk,

Scary Bob, Pleasant Honor, and Tune of the Spirit complete the field.

One race after the youngsters contest the Comet, Peeping Tom will run in a six-furlong race worth $40,000. He will try to rebound from a 10th place finish in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont.

Peeping Tom has won 11 of 37 starts, including a Grade 1 triumph in the 2001 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, for career earnings of $1.2 million.

Riders spread cheer at hospital

Big M riders visited pediatric patients at the Hackensack University Medical Center on Wednesday.

The group included Nick Santagata, the track's all-time leading rider, and past title holders Jose Velez, Jr. and Eddie King.

The riders spent one-on-one time with pediatric patients and their parents and also visited the outpatient areas.

Garcia gets extension

Alan Garcia, the leading apprentice rider at the Big M, got an extension of his apprentice allowance from the Meadowlands stewards.

Garcia provided documentation that he was injured at Jockey Club Del Peru and spent 100 days on the sidelines.

Upon his arrival in New Jersey in early October, Garcia posted 17 wins through Wednesday night, good for second-place in the overall standings.

Under New Jersey Racing Commission rules, apprentice riders are not penalized for time lost for injury or illness.

Garcia's five-pound allowance was extended to April 14, 2004.

Racing commission sets dates

The New Jersey Racing Commission will meet Nov. 5 at its offices in Trenton to award the 2004 Thoroughbred and harness dates.

The New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority has requested a Thoroughbred schedule next year of 72 days at Monmouth Park from May 29 to Sept. 5 and 69 dates at the Big M from Sept. 6 to Dec. 11.