04/24/2003 11:00PM

Step back for Grey Comet

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After Grey Comet finished second in the Grade 3 Gotham, his third consecutive loss in an open stakes, trainer Gary Contessa decided to reacquaint the colt with restricted company.

Contessa tabbed Sunday's $150,000 Times Square at Aqueduct for Grey Comet, who is undefeated in three starts against New York-breds.

But if Grey Comet, who will be the Times Square favorite over five others, runs a big race, he won't be long for restricted company. A berth in the Preakness at Pimlico on May 17 would be considered for his next start.

"He would need to run really well, and the Kentucky Derby [outcome] would have to be unimpressive to us," Contessa said.

The Times Square, run at a mile around one turn, is restricted to 3-year-olds who are sired by New York stallions and is linked to a $100,000 bonus. Grey Comet's owners, Star Track Farms, became eligible for the bonus after the horse won last fall's Great White Way at Aqueduct. To earn the bonus, Grey Comet must win the Times Square and the Cab Calloway on June 8 at Belmont Park.

Grey Comet was beaten 4 1/4 lengths by the loose-on-the-lead Alysweep in the two-turn Gotham on March 16.

"He's fresh and has been training great," Contessa said. "There hasn't been enough speed up front for him. I was happy to finish second in the Gotham."

Grey Comet, who drew post 2, gets a rider switch to Jerry Bailey.

Uncle Camie, who looks like Grey Comet's biggest threat, appears to be the main speed.

Uncle Camie is 3 for 4, with his only loss coming at a mile around two turns. In his last start on April 6, Uncle Camie won a six-furlong race by 6 1/4 lengths over statebreds. He set a lively pace on his way to a final time of 1:09.96 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.

"The one-turn mile will be a huge difference for him," said Mike Hushion, Uncle Camie's trainer. "Going two turns, once you fight him back a little bit, he is the type of horse who has trouble getting his air."

Richard Migliore will ride Uncle Camie from post 3.

Raffit won a restricted maiden race by 18 1/4 lengths at the Times Square distance on March 29. Breaking from post 11 in a 13-horse field, Raffit showed early speed down the backstretch before drawing away around the turn. Edgar Prado rides Raffit for Jim Bond.

Polish Jewel, Beep Beep Beep, and Tomorrows Banquet complete the field.