02/03/2006 1:00AM

Stepping up to 'Achilles'

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Sunshine Alpine, winning an allowance race Wednesday at Aqueduct, could run in the Capossela on Feb. 18.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It doesn't appear that Achilles of Troy will be meeting any killers when he runs in Saturday's $65,000 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct. But one of the more interesting new faces who will challenge him in the 1 1/16-mile race is River City Rebel.

River City Rebel won his debut at Turfway Park on Dec. 28, pressing a moderate pace before drawing clear by 2 1/2 lengths at odds of 21-1. His victory caught the attention of sheets guru Len Friedman, who purchased River City Rebel privately from owner and breeder James Hill and trainer Larry Holt. Friedman transferred River City Rebel to trainer Mike Hushion.

"It was a pretty good effort first time out, particularly since it was accomplished without Lasix," said Friedman, who noted River City Rebel got a number of 11 3/4 on his Ragozin sheets. "I liked the relatives on the dam side, and the sire was not as bad as people might think."

River City Rebel is by Sahm, a son of Mr. Prospector who won on dirt and turf. Sahm's most notable win was the Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap on turf. The dam, Dancing Marrea, won 2 of 13 starts and threw at least five winners.

Friedman said he looked up several of the offspring in the family and found a number of "nice solid, hard-hitting horses that stretched out, that grassed," he said.

Friedman admits that River City Rebel's first race does not make him a stakes horse, "but he's not that far away that he can't improve to become a stakes horse."

Friedman said he was surprised to learn that Achilles of Troy would be running in the Whirlaway. Achilles of Troy won the Count Fleet by 14 lengths, setting a stakes record in the process. Friedman figured Achilles of Troy would be shipped out of town to run in something more prestigious than the Whirlaway.

"He's got to regress quite a bit, and we've got to improve quite a bit," Friedman said.

Among those being pointed to the Whirlaway are One Way Flight, Platinum Couple, and Rob'em Blind. Those mentioned as possible are Eye for Style, Greeley's Legacy, Like Now, Psychotic Reaction, and Scanlon's Song.

Sunshine Alpine may be a keeper

Sunshine Alpine is 2 for 2 sprinting, but trainer Gary Contessa said he believes Sunshine Alpine has a real future as a route horse. Whether his future is with Contessa remains to be seen. The offers have been coming in for Sunshine Alpine, a Maryland-bred son of Gold Case who is now 2 for 2.

Sunshine Alpine displayed a powerful closing kick in an entry-level allowance race here Wednesday, splitting horses in upper stretch and running down a seemingly home-free City Dweller to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Sunshine Alpine covered six furlongs in 1:11.30 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 84.

"I'm glad he proved himself to be what I thought he was," Contessa said. "He's two turns all day. He's a big strapping horse with a huge stride on him, and he's got no fear."

Sunshine Alpine won his debut by 3 1/4 lengths on Jan. 5, when he was offered for a $50,000 claiming price. Asked why he ran him for a tag first time out, Contessa said, "Because I could."

Contessa purchased Sunshine Alpine for $30,000 at last May's Timonium sale for Sunshine Hill Stable and Maggi Moss.

"More than likely he's not going to sell for what we want until he proves he can go two turns, which I'll do next," said Contessa.

There are no two-turn races in the Aqueduct condition book to which Sunshine Alpine is eligible. If he can't find a suitable route race for Sunshine Alpine, Contessa said he may run him in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela, a six-furlong race here on Feb. 18.

Flaming Heart wins Strolling Belle

Flaming Heart collared Amazing Buy inside the sixteenth pole and drew clear for a 1 1/4-length victory in Friday's $61,050 Strolling Belle Stakes at Aqueduct. Jose Santos was aboard the winner, his 3,999th career victory in North America.

Santos had Flaming Heart in fourth position early while Amazing Buy ran uncontested through a quarter in 24.62 seconds and a half-mile in 48.83. Santos moved Flaming Heart into second-place entering the far turn and ran down Amazing Buy and Mike Luzzi in deep stretch. Game Card finished a distant third.

Flaming Heart, a 5-year-old daughter of Touch Gold owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, ran a mile and 70 yards in 1:42.73 and returned $3.20 as the favorite.

Frank's Fuse heads statebred feature

With no stakes on Sunday's card, a second-level New York-bred allowance race at six furlongs serves as the Super Bowl Day feature at Aqueduct. Frank's Fuse, a sharp-looking entry-level allowance winner on Dec. 31, looks like the one to beat in the nine-horse field.

Frank's Fuse has two wins from three starts since being turned over to Richard Dutrow Jr. In his most recent start, Frank's Fuse rallied from off the pace to win by 5 3/4 lengths without being hard-used by Kyle Kaenel. Jose Santos has the call on Sunday. Kaenel will ride Seeking the Glory.

Rapid Rickey finished second in this same condition last out after getting pinched at the break when breaking from the inside. Rapid Rickey switches to the outside post and could work out a decent trip under Eibar Coa.

Spin Factor and Seeking the Glory are other contenders in the field.