12/10/2004 12:00AM

Zito high on 'Thunder' in Runyon

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - No Galloping Grocer, no problem filling the entries for Sunday's $75,000 Damon Runyon Stakes, restricted to New York-bred juveniles. A field of 12 was entered for the 1 1/16-mile race, run over Aqueduct's inner track.

Galloping Grocer established himself as the top New York-bred juvenile with three dominating victories in statebred competition and a narrow loss to undefeated Rockport Harbor in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes. There are other talented New York-bred juveniles, such as Up Like Thunder and Summerland, who top this field.

Up Like Thunder, a son of War Chant, is 2 for 3, including an authoritative 4 3/4-length victory in the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 3. Trainer Nick Zito was pointing Up Like Thunder to the Sleepy Hollow, but the colt was forced to miss that race when he developed a fever. Since resuming training, Up Like Thunder shows four solid five-furlong workouts.

"This is a real good horse," Zito said Friday from Florida. "I know he hasn't run in two months, but this is a very talented horse. He's not your average New York-bred."

Up Like Thunder must tote high weight of 122 pounds under Rafael Bejarano. Asked about stretching out Up Like Thunder around two turns for the first time, Zito said, "I don't think he'll have any problem with it."

Summerland, a son of Western Expression, is also 2 for 3, including a 6 1/2-length allowance win on Nov. 28. Trainer Rick Violette wasn't planning on wheeling him back this soon, but indications are the horse is doing well. Summerland stretches out from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles, but his dam, Laken, was a multiple winner going long.

"He's got high speed, but he can go into neutral," Violette said. "I think he did that in his last race; he took command, went into neutral, and sprinted home."

Naughty New Yorker, Carminooch, and Freddy the Cap deserve a look. Second to Galloping Grocer in the Sleepy Hollow, Naughty New Yorker came back to win his maiden by 10 1/4 lengths and is certainly bred to handle two turns.

Carminooch rallied from last to win an entry-level allowance race by five over Big Apple Daddy, who is also in this field. Jimmy Picou, the trainer of Big Apple Daddy, will retire following this race after a 44-year career.

Freddy the Cap was second to Up Like Thunder in the Bongard, and had trouble when beaten two lengths in an open company allowance race.