07/15/2004 12:00AM

Alternate needs to step it up


In each of the last five years, trainer Graham Motion has won a stakes during the Delaware Handicap Festival of Racing. If that streak is to continue, Motion needs Alternate to recapture her best form Saturday.

Alternate, winless in four starts this year, is Motion's lone entrant in the seven stakes that will be run Saturday and Sunday at Delaware Park. She's listed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite and 119-pound highweight in the $150,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders' Cup, a 1 3/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares. She's also the defending champion.

Motion is optimistic the 5-year-old Alternate will respond to a return to the grass course where she scored the biggest win of her carrer, a 1 1/4-length victory at odds of 12-1 in the 2003 Dick. Her last two races were subpar performances in the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay and a high-priced optional claimer at Belmont Park. Earlier in the season, she was narrowly beaten in a pair of Grade 3 stakes at Tampa Bay and Keeneland.

Alternate's chief competition figures to come from the Shug McGaughey-trained Lady Liberty and the well-traveled Lady of the Future.

Lady Liberty, who will be ridden by Jerry Bailey, finished 2 1/2 lengths behind Alternate at 52-1 in the Grade 3 Bewitch in April. Her lone win in six starts on turf came in a 1 1/2-mile allowance race at Keeneland.

Lady of the Future, a nine-time winner on turf, will be racing at her ninth different track in her last nine starts. A deep closer, Lady of the Future finished third in last year's Dick and most recently got up by a nose to win a $100,000 turf stakes at Philadelphia Park.

Carpenter: Could be a closer's race

The Lady's Groom is an ultra-consistent 4-year-old colt who has strung together Beyers of 110-110-109 in his last three starts, including close losses to Offlee Wild in the Grade 2 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs and the Grade 3 Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico. But with several other speedballs in the field of nine older horses, The Lady's Groom could be under pressure in the $100,000 R.R.M. Carpenter Memorial Handicap.

A fast early pace could set up the 1 1/16-mile Carpenter for either Eye of the Tiger or Supah Blitz. Eye of the Tiger has chased the nation's top sprinter, Pico Central, in his last three starts and benefits from a rider switch to Jerry Bailey. Supah Blitz ran well in a pair of Grade 3 stakes earlier this year but is winless in his last nine starts.