05/26/2003 11:00PM

Aldebaran may go longer next time


ELMONT, N.Y. - Bobby Frankel said he has always wanted to stretch Aldebaran out in distance, and he may give him that opportunity in the Grade 1, $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 14.

Aldebaran captured the most prestigious victory of his career Monday, winning the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap by a neck over Saarland at sloppy Belmont Park. The victory was the second Grade 1 for Aldebaran this year and pushed his career earnings to $1,413,517 for Flaxman Stable.

With no other rich sprint race until the $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap on July 5 at Hollywood Park, Frankel feels now may be the time to experiment with longer distances for Aldebaran. The Stephen Foster is run at nine furlongs.

"If I'm going to take a shot and run him back, I'm going to go for it," Frankel said, referring to the rich purse of the Stephen Foster compared with the $250,000 pot for the nine-furlong Brooklyn Handicap run at Belmont the same day. "He's been thriving on racing. I don't think the distance will bother him - he can rate."

Twice Aldebaran has run beyond one mile and both races were on turf. In September 2001, Aldebaran finished second in a 10-furlong allowance race at Doncaster. Later that year, he finished third, three lengths behind stablemate Denon in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at 1 1/8 miles.

"The Hollywood turf course was a bog that day," Frankel said.

Frankel said he already plans to run two other horses at Churchill on June 14, Personal Legend in the $200,000 Regret and Wild Spirit in the $300,000 Fleur de Lis.

Should Frankel run Aldebaran in the Stephen Foster and should he successfully stretch out, it would add to an already embarrassment of riches in the handicap division for Frankel.

Between his Belmont and Hollywood Park barns, Frankel has four of the top six finishers from last year's Breeders' Cup Classic. At Hollywood, Frankel has Milwaukee Brew, who finished third in the Classic, pointing to the Hollywood Gold Cup on July 13. Milwaukee Brew won the Santa Anita Handicap in March.

At Belmont, the Classic runner-up, Medaglia d'Oro, has resumed training after injuring a foot following his victory in the April 5 Oaklawn Park Handicap. Tuesday, Medaglia d'Oro galloped over the training track and could be ready for the $500,000 Suburban here on July 5.

Recent arrivals to Frankel's Belmont barn are Macho Uno, the 2000 juvenile champion who finished fifth in last year's Classic, and Dollar Bill, a multiple stakes winner who finished a neck behind Macho Uno in the Classic. Frankel said Macho Uno probably wouldn't be ready to run until Saratoga while Dollar Bill could be ready by the end of June or early July.

With three stakes victories over the weekend - Chiming in the Yerba Buena Breeders' Cup at Bay Meadows, Tates Creek in the Gamely Breeders' Cup at Hollywood, and Aldebaran in the Met - Frankel has won 25 graded stakes this year, 22 since March 1. He is 25 for 58 (43 percent) in graded events this year.

McGaughey comes up short again in Met

The Metropolitan Handicap continues to be an elusive prize for trainer Shug McGaughey.

When Saarland's late rally fell a neck short to Aldebaran in Monday's Met Mile, it left McGaughey with an 0-2-5 record from his last 10 starters in the race dating back to 1988. In 1989, McGaughey finished second and third behind Proper Reality with the odds-on favored entry of Seeking the Gold and Dancing Spree in a race where two noses separated the top three finishers.

Easy Goer finished third in 1990, while Our Emblem (third in 1995) and Accelerator (third in 1998) were his other close calls.

"I was disappointed," McGaughey said about Saarland's runner-up finish, "but anytime they go over and run like that you can't ask for much more than that. This is certainly a race I'd like to win."

McGaughey thought Saarland was going to run by Aldebaran in deep stretch, but the horse seemed to lose momentum when Aldebaran, under Jerry Bailey, drifted out, nearly brushing with Saarland.

"I don't know if he ducked from Bailey's whip or if Bailey just did a good job of race-riding," McGaughey said.

McGaughey said Saarland would be pointed to the Brooklyn Handicap on June 14, but if he felt that was too close back then he would train him up to the Suburban.

Different techniques for coping with wet track

The recent spate of wet weather has forced several trainers to alter their regular schedules, making for an interesting variety of training methods.

Not wanting to work the Breeders' Cup Classic winner, Volponi, over a sloppy track, trainer Phil Johnson has had him jog three miles the wrong way for the last several days. Volponi, who is pointing to the Brooklyn, goes 1 1/2 miles on the training track, then another 1 1/2 miles on the main track.

Johnson was hoping to get an allowance race for Volponi last week, but it did not fill. Johnson planned to work Volponi on Wednesday over the main track, which was being meticulously worked on by the maintenance crew Tuesday afternoon.

Trainer Todd Pletcher decided to take advantage of track management's decision to open the turf course Sunday, and he worked the Donn Handicap winner, Harlan's Holiday, over the turf. Harlan's Holiday, who is also preparing for the Brooklyn, went four furlongs in 51.64 seconds over the yielding turf.

Trainer Pat Kelly has been patient bringing the Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, Evening Attire, back this year. Like Johnson, Kelly did not want to work over a wet track. On Tuesday, he deemed the training track safe enough to breeze over and Evening Attire went five furlongs in 1:02.41 over a "good" surface.

Kelly is hoping Evening Attire could be ready to run by the Suburban. Evening Attire has not raced since winning the off-the-turf Red Smith Handicap on Nov. 23.

Meanwhile, McGaughey felt compelled to work champion juvenile filly Storm Flag Flying on Monday over an extremely sloppy track. McGaughey felt he needed two more works in order to have Storm Flag Flying ready for the Grade 1 Acorn on June 6.

Storm Flag Flying, who had regular rider John Velazquez up, worked in company with Alluring, and according to McGaughey she put her workmate away surprisingly easy.

"Being an off track, I wanted her in the bridle the whole way so I put her in company," McGaughey said. "She handled Alluring pretty easily and Alluring is a pretty good work horse. Johnny thought that when [Storm Flag Flying] passed her she was going to wait on her, but she didn't, she finished really well."

Storm Flag Flying is scheduled to work again over the weekend.

Entry-level allowances head Thursday card

Both divisions of an entry-level allowance for colts and geldings at 1 1/16 miles came up pretty even heats on Thursday's nine-race card.

Indian Card may be the one to beat in the first division, carded as race 6, as he won a New York-bred second-level allowance by 10 3/4 lengths on April 2 and came back to finish second to Go Rockin' Robin in this open condition last out. Go Rockin' Robin won last Saturday's Grade 2 Peter Pan Sakes.

In the second division, which goes as race 8, Danger Point could offer value for trainer Nick Zito. Danger Point, a son of Cape Town, rallied from 10 lengths back to win a seven-furlong maiden race in the slop at Keeneland on April 9. His nasty habit of breaking poorly did him in at Churchill Downs, where he finished sixth at this level.

Burchfield, from the Godolphin Racing barn, ran two good races in Dubai and now gets Lasix and Jerry Bailey for his North American debut. Burchfield is a full-brother to a pair of stakes-placed runners, King of the Wild and Thunder Fish.