11/26/2002 1:00AM

Zucker hopes for more than dinner in N.Y.


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Howard Zucker is looking forward to more than a Thanksgiving get-together with his sister Joan this week in New York. For the second time this year, Zucker has made the cross-country trek to his native state in hopes of winning a Grade 1 race.

In May, Zucker brought Crafty C.T. to Belmont Park for the Metropolitan Handicap, where he finished third, 6 1/4 lengths behind Swept Overboard. Saturday, Zucker and Crafty C.T. will be back to contest the $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, the last Grade 1 of the year in New York.

"I thought he ran fabulous in the Met Mile, considering he was coming off one six-furlong race in nine months,'' said Zucker, who grew up in the Bronx and worked as a hotwalker and groom for several New York trainers, including T.J. Kelly and George Poole. "He was eight wide turning for home; they kept riding him out. He went a lot farther than any of them did. I always thought with the long stride that he has that he's really suited to a one-turn mile.''

Crafty C.T. has been competitive in all six starts he has made this year. While his two wins have come in optional claiming events, Crafty C.T. finished second in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita and third, beaten only one length in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Arlington.

"He finished up full of run,'' Zucker said. "We took the saddle off him after the race and he wasn't even blowing, it was like he ran the last part and had a lot left. He galloped out past those horses past the wire and he thought he won it. I know this is a really deep field and it's going to be a good race, but my horse is ready.''

Pat Valenzuela, who last rode in New York in 1994, will pilot Crafty C.T.

Ellie's Moment makes up for lost time

A lung infection sidelined Ellie's Moment for most of the summer. She is trying to make up for lost time this fall.

After posting an impressive last-to-first victory in a classified allowance race on Nov. 15, Ellie's Moment will be wheeled right back in Friday's Grade 2, $150,000 Top Flight Handicap. While trainer Jimmy Toner said he's a little leery about running her back so quickly, he feels she deserves a shot to be at least graded stakes placed.

Ellie's Moment has been first or second in all four starts this year. She was the favorite in the WNBC Stakes on Belmont Day, but she was stuck behind horses and was forced to go wide when two horses broke down in front of her. She finished second behind Too Scarlet.

Toner believes Ellie's Moment will fit New York's winter stakes program for fillies and mares perfectly. Following the Top Flight, Toner said he would most likely point Ellie's Moment to races like the Affectionately and Rare Treat handicaps over the inner track.

Soto not in Remsen anymore

When Michael Dickinson was in California last weekend to run Cetewayo in the Hollywood Turf Cup, he was stabled in trainer Bobby Frankel's barn. That gave him an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the highly touted 2-year-old Empire Maker.

What he saw made Dickinson decide to send his unbeaten juvenile Soto to Churchill Downs for Saturday's $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes rather than to Aqueduct for the $200,000 Remsen Stakes.

"He's probably one of the five best bred 2-year-olds in the world,'' Dickinson said of Empire Maker. "He's fantastic looking. His dam is a Grade 1 winner, she's bred three Grade 1 winners and [Empire Maker] has worked with Medaglia d'Oro and he's only a 2-year-old.''

Empire Maker is by Unbridled out of the dam Toussaud, who won the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap. Toussaud has thrown Grade 1 winners Chester House, Honest Lady, and Chiselling as well as the graded stakes winner Decarchy.

In his only start, Empire Maker won a one-mile maiden race at Belmont by 3 1/2 lengths, earning an 84 Beyer Speed Figure.

While Dickinson may be scared away, a field of 10 is shaping up for the Grade 2 Remsen including Toccet, winner of the Champagne and Laurel Futurity. Others planning to run include Bham, Celtic Memories, One Colony, Outer Reef, Penobscot Bay, Title Contender, Valenzo, and Wacky for Love. Powerful Touch is possible.

Bham takes the place of Cowdin winner Boston Bull for trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher said he and owner Cot Campbell felt it best to skip the Remsen with Boston Bull and point him to the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 3.

Reheat injured, out of Demoiselle

Reheat, runner-up in the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes, suffered a fractured left hind cannon bone following a workout Monday morning at Belmont Park and will be out indefinitely. Reheat was being pointed to Saturday's $200,000 Demoiselle Stakes.

Reheat was sent to the New Jersey Equine Clinic, where she was to have undergone surgery performed by Dr. Scott Palmer on Tuesday. Trainer Stanley Hough sounded optimistic that Reheat could return to the races by late spring or early summer.

"It seems like she should make it back okay,'' Hough said. "It didn't involve the joint above the ankle. If the surgery goes well she would make it back by Belmont.''

A field of nine is shaping up for the Demoiselle, a Grade 2 race run at nine furlongs. Fircroft, who won the off-the-turf Miss Grillo Stakes on Oct. 27, would be a lukewarm favorite.

Others expected are Bonay, Savedbythelight, and Xtra Heart - the third- through fifth-place finishers in the Tempted - Feisty Step, Maria's Mojo, Roar Emotion, and Summer Scene. Lets Just Do It is possible.

* Post time will deviate from the norm for three of the four days over the holiday weekend. Post time for Thursday's nine-race card is 11:30 a.m. Eastern. Friday and Saturday, when Aqueduct will run 10 races, first post will be noon. On Sunday, post time returns to 12:30 p.m.