12/27/2002 12:00AM

Wrangler tops Gravesend


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Because of the Christmas Day storm that brought rain, sleet, and six inches of snow to Aqueduct, forcing the cancellation of Thursday's races, there will be a stakes doubleheader at the Big A on Sunday.

The regularly scheduled Alex M. Robb Handicap for New York-breds will be the eighth race, and the re-drawn Gravesend Handicap goes as the ninth race on a 10-race card.

The Grade 3 Gravesend, which was to have been run on Thursday, originally drew a field of nine, but only eight older sprinters entered when the six-furlong race was redrawn on Friday.

Heading the competitive field is Wrangler, who has been sidelined since going off form in late spring for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Wrangler, owned by the Stronach Stable, began the year with three straight wins, earning back-to-back Beyer Speed Figures of 110 on the inner track in January, and making a sharp score in Laurel's General George.

After that, however, Wrangler bled while running fourth at 4-5 in the Toboggan Handicap, spent two months recovering, and was then beaten twice more before being given a rest.

"The Toboggan took more out of him than I originally thought," Jerkens said. "I thought I had given him enough time, but he just fell apart."

Wrangler will break from the rail, and carries 116 pounds, two less than co-highweights Sassy Hound (post 8) and Multiple Choice (post 5). Multiple Choice, idle since upsetting the Sport Page Handicap at 15-1 two months ago, is also trained by Jerkens.

The speed of the Gravesend may be Sing Me Back Home, who dueled early in the Oct. 26 Sport Page, and then returned from a freshening earlier this month to post a front-running victory over Say Florida Sandy over a wet inner track.

Sing Me Back Home breaks from post 4, and Say Florida Sandy will start from post 7 as he makes his 92nd career start and attempts to win this race for the third time. A win or second-place finish will enable Say Florida Sandy to surpass the $2 million earnings plateau. He currently has earned $1,982,255.

Also in the Gravesend are Vino Solo, Gold I.D., and Late Carson.

A field of 13, including one also-eligible, entered the The Alex M. Robb, a wide-open route at 1 1/16 miles for older statebred males.

The probable pacemaker is the Bruce Levine-trained Thebigapple, who is one of two 3-year-olds in the field, along with Quatre Dix Neuf.

Thebigapple, who drew post 10, has won three of his last five starts, but comes off a sixth-place finish in his first try over the inner track, a 1 1/8-mile race that featured fast internal fractions of 46.95 seconds and 1:11.11. "They went too fast for a nine-furlong race," Levine said. "He moved too soon on the backstretch."

Chief among those who figure to apply some pressure up front is Tom's Thunder, who was claimed by Pat Reynolds for $75,000 on Dec. 1. Tom's Thunder has spent most of the year sprinting, including a runner-up effort in the Hudson Handicap in his most recent New York-bred race.

"I'll give C.C. Lopez my famous statement: 'Let him roll jock,' " Reynolds said. "Hopefully, we break well and get good position before the first turn. This horse is ready to knock out a big one."

Other Robb contenders include Personable Pete, Impeachthepro, John Paul Too, Chasin' Wimmin, Stellianos, and Mount Intrepid, winner of the Kings Point Handicap in April.