03/23/2004 12:00AM

Toscano hopes big win propels him to the top

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sinister G's wire-to-wire triumph in Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End Stakes was far and away the richest and most important win of jockey Paul Toscano's riding career. But the victory meant a lot more to the 15-year journeyman than just a big payday and the dream of possibly riding in his first Kentucky Derby.

That's because for Toscano, victory in the Lane's End at Turfway Park was a family affair. Sinister G is owned in part by his brothers Robert Toscano and John Toscano III and trained by his father, John Toscano Jr.

"It was fantastic, a dream come true to win a race like that for my family," said Paul Toscano, who has been riding regularly on the south Florida circuit for the past year. "I couldn't be happier."

Racing over a wet track that had been sealed before the race, Toscano sent Sinister G right to the lead, and they withstood several challenges en route to a 1 1/2-length victory over 54-1 shot Tricky Taboo. Sinister G was also an outsider in the field, paying $34.80 to win.

"I've liked this horse right from the start, and although he was a big price I had a lot of confidence in him going into the race," Toscano said. "He had the best Beyer number in the field, and I figured, if he improves, he could win.

"I didn't go out there with any definite plan to make the lead. I was going to let him place himself wherever he wanted. But then he broke running and wanted to get to the front, so I just let him."

While no decision has been made regarding Sinister G's next start, it is likely he will return to his New York base at Aqueduct and run in the Grade 1 Wood.

"I think he can absolutely be a Kentucky Derby contender," said Toscano. "He's still a little immature, but he's getting the hang of it quickly and I don't feel he's run his best race yet."

Toscano, 31, has ridden with some success on both coasts during his career. His biggest previous victory came aboard Discard the Five for trainer David Hofmans in the $125,000 Barretts Juvenile. Toscano began riding regularly in this area during the final month of the 2003 Gulfstream meet, then remained in Miami this summer, finishing in the top 10 in the standings at both the Calder and Tropical at Calder meets. His book is handled by Dick Diego.

"A win like this can really boost a rider's career, and hopefully this horse can help bring me up to the top again," said Toscano. "I'm planning to stay down here and ride at Calder again this summer while also going up to New York to ride for my father on dark days. Of course I'll go wherever Sinister G goes, regardless of what day it is or how many other mounts I could ride."

Top fillies heading out for Ashland

Two of the top 3-year-old fillies in the country, Madcap Escapade and Last Song, will get acquainted when they take the same flight to Kentucky on Wednesday. They will then meet again on the racetrack at Keeneland on April 3 in a star-studded field expected for the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes.

Last Song, winner of the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes here earlier this month, had her final local work for the Ashland on Sunday, going five furlongs in 59.40 seconds.

"She worked great," trainer Carl Nafzger said. "She's a very good filly and continues to get better with every start. That's been our plan, to have her improve gradually this winter and spring, with the main goal being to have her peak for the Kentucky Oaks."

The undefeated Madcap Escapade, who has not been challenged in any of her three starts, will stretch out around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile Ashland. Trainer Frank Brothers said her final work for the race will take place in Kentucky.

Pletcher outlines stakes plans

Trainer Todd Pletcher was to board a plane Tuesday evening bound for Dubai, where he will run Alke in Saturday's $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen. But before leaving, Pletcher mapped out some of his stakes plans for the remainder of the meet.

"I'm running Speightstown here Saturday in the Artax Handicap," said Pletcher. "Next weekend, Newfoundland and Indy Dancer will start in the Gulfstream Park Handicap and Forest Grove runs in the Aventura."

Pletcher added, "Newfoundland has already won twice over the track, and so has Forest Grove, which is one of the main reasons we're trying him in the Aventura. He's 2 for 2 at Gulfstream, and he deserves the chance to see if he can step up."

Pletcher also reported that Ashado continues to train extremely well and is likely to make her next start in the Ashland.

"We'll see how things go over the next week or so," Pletcher said. "Right now I'm leaning towards the Ashland, but we always have the Fantasy to fall back on if we want."