07/24/2003 12:00AM

Alternate to stay on turf


Despite winning four races and more than $300,000 in her first

13 starts, Alternate was something of a disappointment, both for trainer Graham Motion and the bettors who heavily supported her race after race.

As a 3-year-old last season, Alternate won Delaware Park's Go for Wand Stakes at

1 1/16 miles on dirt in only the fourth start of her career. But in her next nine races, including three graded stakes, Alternate was the beaten favorite six times - four at less than even-money.

Motion tried various experiments with the filly, racing her on both dirt and turf in an attempt to find where she fit best. Alternate, a $300,000 yearling, may have finally found her niche last Saturday when she won for the first time in three starts on grass in the $150,000 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes at 1 3/8 miles.

A daughter of Seattle Slew out of Strike a Balance, Alternate also rewarded her faithful followers by paying $27.40 for a $2 win ticket.

"I am really tickled about it, because this filly has always been on the cusp of being a really nice horse," said Motion, referring to Alternate's six second-place finishes, including a half-length loss in last year's Grade 2 Monmouth Oaks. "She is beautifully bred and she has the pedigree to be a really nice horse. Clearly, this was big step toward her hopefully reaching that potential."

Motion intends to keep Alternate in long-distance grass races. The next logical spot for her, he said, is the Glens Falls at Saratoga, a Grade 3 turf stakes at 1 3/8 miles, on Aug. 25.

Mandy's Gold returns to sprinting

Mandy's Gold, fifth in the Delaware Handicap behind runaway winner Wild Spirit, will shorten up from 1 1/4 miles to seven furlongs for her next start, the Grade 1 Ballerina Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 24.

"She did not really run, I think, to her potential, but there was no apparent excuse," said Mike Gorham, trainer of the 5-year-old Mandy's Gold. "But she came out of the race fine."

Layoffs the question in Moscarelli

Figuring out which older horses are most likely to fire returning from long layoffs is the biggest challenge handicappers face in Saturday's $100,000 Vincent Moscarelli Handicap, a six-furlong sprint.

Among the seven entrants, two have not raced in more than five months and two others have been idle for 60 days or more.

The list of long absentees includes New York-based veteran Say Florida Sandy. Now 9, Say Florida Sandy will be making his first start since May 10. Although he earned a victory through disqualification in he Paumonok Handicap in January, Say Florida Sandy has not finished first in a stakes since Sept. 2001 at The Meadowlands - a streak of 14 races.

The most intriguing shipper, however, is a 4-year-old gelding Bay Marvel, who has won his last two starts, both at Lone Star Park, after an absence of 18 months. In his two wins, Bay Marvel earned Beyer Speed Figures of 104 and 97, which compare favorably with those of the other contenders.

Among those who have raced recently, Sea of Green comes off a win in the $100,000 Charles Town Dash at 4 1/2 furlongs and Sombodyswatchnovme wired high-priced optional claimers three weeks ago.