04/04/2003 1:00AM

Thrilled Santos back aboard Volponi


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Jose Santos will turn 42 later this month, but the veteran jockey said he "felt like a little boy" on Friday morning.

That's when Santos climbed aboard Volponi for the first time since last October, when he rode the horse to an upset victory in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic. Friday, Santos guided Volponi through a five-furlong workout officially timed in 1:01.74 over Belmont Park's training track.

"He's coming along great," Santos said before catching a plane to Lexington, where he was to ride the opening weekend of Keeneland's meeting. "He looks stronger than last year, he's bigger. He's still a month away from racing, but he looks like he's ready to run tomorrow. I felt like a little boy working him."

Friday's move was the fourth official workout for Volponi in the last several weeks. Trainer Phil Johnson said he wanted Santos for this work "because he is fully capable of slowing him down the first part. Most people that get on this horse they have a tendency to go 12-and-change the first eighth, then they have to get into a wrestling match with him, which is always scary."

Belmont clockers timed Volponi in fractions of 13.40 seconds, 25, 37.40 and caught him galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.60 over a fast track. Johnson, who timed Volponi a little faster than the clockers, said he is pleased about where Volponi is in his training. Johnson said he would look for a race at the beginning of the Belmont meet.

Gullo to become Chavez's agent

Gary Gullo, who has trained horses for 25 years, will quit that job next Saturday to become the agent for Eclipse Award winning jockey Jorge Chavez. Gullo replaces Ron Ebanks, whom Chavez released from his duties this week.

It will be the first time Gullo has represented a jockey.

"I got tired of going broke, to be honest with you," Gullo said when asked why he decided to give up training. "It's very hard to make a living on the money it costs to take care of a horse. I've been training horses for 25 years and last year I probably had the worst year I ever had."

In 2002, Gullo had 12 winners from 145 starters, and his horses earned $296,200, of which Gullo received 10 percent. This year, Gullo had just one winner from 37 starters. For his career, Gullo saddled 425 winners from 3,861 starters.

"After 9-11, owners weren't putting money into the game and buying horses, and I saw my stable shrinking," Gullo said. "For me to get an opportunity like Chavez I had to jump on it."

Gullo said the 20 horses he has in his stable are in the process of being dispersed to other trainers. It is expected that Gary Sciacca and Dominic Galluscio will get the bulk of the stock.

Though Gullo will stop training on Saturday, he will not be able to start his new job until May, when Chavez is expected to return after fracturing three vertebrae last month.

Chavez said he appreciated the job Ebanks did for him, but his long-term friendship with Gullo and his desire to stay in New York most of the year were why he made the switch.

"I prefer to be here more than anyplace else," Chavez said. "I've known Gary since I came to this country in 1988. He's my friend and he asked me if I could help him. Ronny did a very good job, I'm not complaining."

During will go in Bay Shore

Trainer Bob Baffert said During, once under consideration for Saturday's $750,000 Wood Memorial, will run instead in the $150,000 Bay Shore, a seven-furlong race on the Wood undercard.

"I'm a little bit behind with him and don't want to ruin him by trying to make the Derby," Baffert said. "That might be too far for him, anyway. I think he is a really good horse."

A son of Cherokee Run, During won a mile optional claimer in his fourth start on March 12. Before that, During finished second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race, beaten less than a length by Santa Anita Derby favorite Atswhatimtalknbout.

Baffert's recent acquisition Senor Swinger will run in the Grade 1 Wood, providing he works to the trainer's satisfaction at Santa Anita on Sunday.

Baffert said Congaree, who won Aqueduct's Wood Memorial and Cigar Mile, is likely to start in the Grade 1 Carter on the Wood undercard.

Onthedeanslist heads feature

A money allowance race for older males at 1 1/8 miles is Sunday's feature.

Among the six runners is Onthedeanslist, a lightly raced but talented 4-year-old. Onthedeanslist has won three of his last five allowance starts. He is trained by John Terranova and owned by Team Valor Stables. In his last race, Onthedeanslist closed to finish third going 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park Feb. 22.

* Jockey John Velazquez's wife, Leona, gave birth to a son on Friday. Michael Patrick weighed in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces. Velazquez took off his mounts at Aqueduct on Friday.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson