02/06/2003 1:00AM

Torre and Zim's speed a danger


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Though Grey Comet won last month's Count Fleet Stakes in front-running fashion, trainer Gary Contessa still believes his undefeated 3-year-old New York-bred is better with something to run at.

Be careful what you wish for, Gary.

Torre and Zim possesses the speed Contessa would like to see, but he may also possess the stamina that could make him tough to catch in Saturday's $75,000 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct. The Whirlaway, run at 1 1/16 miles, drew a field of seven, though Formidable Fox and Gimmeawink have been cross-entered in Saturday's $50,000 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel.

Torre and Zim, named for New York Yankees manager Joe Torre and bench coach Don Zimmer, is 2 for 3. Trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., Torre and Zim hasn't run since Dec. 19 when he romped to a 4 1/4-length victory in an entry-level allowance race at one mile.

While he beat nothing that day, Torre and Zim was coming off a 54-day layoff and was stretching out from six furlongs. In addition, he was pressed for a solid five furlongs before drawing off.

Dutrow decided to skip the Count Fleet and point to the Whirlaway, meaning Torre and Zim will have had 50 days between starts.

"I'm very happy about the timing of his races," Dutrow said. "I think he's got a chance to be a nice horse and we're going to give him every chance to be that. Our camp is extremely confident; we think he's going to run his best race to date."

In making a rider switch from apprentice John McKee to journeyman Chuck Lopez, Dutrow leaves little doubt he wants Torre and Zim on the lead Saturday.

"He's got more experience and he's better than most coming out of the gate," Dutrow said of Lopez. "Looking at the field, if he breaks good he should be the one setting the pace."

Before winning the Count Fleet - his fourth straight victory - Grey Comet won the Damon Runyon Stakes by coming from off the pace. That is why, when talking about the Whirlaway, Contessa says: "The more speed the merrier. He can sit back in mid-pack and then eat them alive."

Grey Comet, the 122-pound highweight, will break from post 6 under Aaron Gryder.

Go Rockin' Robin was third behind Grey Comet in the Damon Runyon and came back to win a statebred allowance race by a neck. Trainer Scott Schwartz said his colt "will get better as we go longer."

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