03/08/2006 1:00AM

Sweetnorthernsaint closer to Gotham invite


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It is starting to look more likely that Sweetnorthernsaint will be able to run in the Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham Stakes here on March 18.

After tests on four horses stabled at Pimlico Race Course and Bowie Race Course in Maryland were negative for the equine herpesvirus, Dr. Anthony Verderosa, the chief examining veterinarian for the New York Racing Association, said he may soon be able to lift the ban on Maryland shippers to Aqueduct in time for the Gotham. The four horses were the last ones in Maryland that had showed signs of the virus.

Verderosa had placed a ban on horses stabled at Maryland tracks since February, shortly after the first case of equine herpesvirus was reported.

Verderosa said Wednesday afternoon he still needed answers to some questions about the situation in Maryland, but he seemed far more encouraged by day's end than he was in the morning when he said it was doubtful that he would rescind the ban by Gotham Day.

Asked specifically about trainer Michael Trombetta's desire to ship Sweetnorthernsaint to Aqueduct for the Gotham, Verderosa said: "It looks more likely than unlikely. I'm going to talk to Mr. Trombetta [Thursday], and if we get some questions answered satisfactorily, we may be able to do this."

Trombetta, who is stabled at Laurel, was encouraged by the news, but stopped just short of committing to the Gotham until he spoke with Verderosa.

The Gotham "has been our first choice, but like with anything else we're going to look at all our options," Trombetta said Wednesday afternoon. "It makes the most sense."

On Wednesday morning, Trombetta said he was looking at running in the Tampa Bay Derby if he couldn't run in the Gotham. But the Gotham is his first choice for two reasons.

"Logistically, it's easier to get to and I guess most importantly, he's had a race over the track and performed well on it," Trombetta said. "And that's an option that you don't get during this series. Usually, you run one time and you're on to something else."

On Jan. 7, Sweetnorthernsaint won a six-furlong maiden race over the inner track by 7 3/4 lengths, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 102. He came back last month to win the Miracle Wood Stakes by 10 lengths at Laurel, earning a 104. The Gotham, run at 1 1/16 miles, would be his first start around two turns.

Trombetta is still seeking a rider for Sweetnorthernsaint. Ramon Dominguez, who rode the gelding here in January, is riding Achilles of Troy in the Gotham. Mario Pino, who rode Sweetnorthernsaint in the Miracle Wood, is planning to undergo hernia surgery next Wednesday.

Amy quits riding to become agent

Jose Amy, who had his jockey's license reinstated 24 years after having it suspended for his role in a race-fixing scandal, has retired from race riding. He plans to become a jockey's agent and will represent the 10-pound apprentice Carlos Quinones.

Amy, 52, had his license suspended in 1980 for admitting to taking bribes to fix seven races in New York in 1974 and 1975.

He fought for years to get his license back, and it was reinstated by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in October 2004. He rode almost exclusively for trainer Dominic Galluscio. Amy won 5 races from 73 mounts since his return. He rode his last race on Feb. 15.

Amy said the lack of riding opportunities is one reason he is retiring. He also said he is excited to represent Quinones, who has yet to ride in a race. Quinones, a 20-year-old native of Puerto Rico, has been galloping horses the last several months for Galluscio. Prior to that, he was galloping at Finger Lakes.

"I see a lot of talent in him," Amy said.

Could this be the day for Introspect?

Introspect is 0 for 21 since his last victory, but he may have just found the right spot to end his near two-year drought in Friday's second-level allowance feature. Introspect blew a 3 1/2-length lead in the Hollie Hughes Handicap when beaten 2 1/4 lengths by Big Apple Daddy, who is headed to the Carter Handicap.

Introspect does his best running on the front end and may have to deal with some pace pressure from Alarmed or Toy Thief. Nevertheless, Introspect's last victory, on March 14, 2004, over the main track, came from just off the pace.

Introspect continues to train well following his Hollie Hughes loss with a bullet half-mile workout in 47.60 seconds over the Belmont Park training track last weekend. He gets a four-pound weight shift from Melodeeman, who finished third in the Hollie Hughes.