08/12/2001 11:00PM

With Anticipation gets his Grade 1

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A victory in a Grade 1 stakes is prized by racing men everywhere. With Anticipation, owned by Augustin Stable, was disqualified and placed second for drifting in the stretch in last month's United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park, prompting trainer Jonathan Sheppard to wonder if With Anticipation, a 6-year-old gelding by Relaunch, would ever win in Grade 1 competition.

Sheppard didn't have to wait very long. With Anticipation, who ran a smashing race to finish first in the United Nations, ran just as well, if not better, to win Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer Handicap by three-quarters of a length from King Cugat, the 9-5 favorite. The racing luck he lacked in the United Nations was with him in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer.

King Cugat had to steady several times during the 1 1/2-mile trip, and his rally through the stretch was a bit short.

The 10-year-old John's Call, who won the Sword Dancer last summer and was expected to be a factor again, bled for the first time and faded after an early show of verve.

The Sword Dancer was the fourth grass race for With Anticipation since Hall of Fame horseman Sheppard made the decision this spring to switch him from dirt to turf. Sheppard usually has a lot of grass horses in his barn, and in the interests of balance, started With Anticipation on the dirt. It was a promising experiment, for a while but nothing more, and after two dull outings at Gulfstream Park last winter, Sheppard made the change. With Anticipation finished first in all four outings on turf.

"He never gave me the impression he was doing his absolute best on the dirt," Sheppard said at the barn. "It's a different story on the grass, and he has been improving. Pat Day, riding him for the first time, did a fine job. With Anticipation has good speed and Pat knows how to save that speed."

The winner of the Sword Dancer is out of Fran's Valentine, a Saros mare who finished first in the initial Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, only to be disqualified for interference, with Outstandingly advanced to the winner's circle. George Strawbridge, who owns Augustin Stable, purchased Fran's Valentine privately a few years ago. Now, as the dam of a Grade 1 winner, her value has appreciated considerably.

"With Anticipation will probably make his next start in the Man o' War at Belmont Park on Sept. 8," Sheppard said. "He is one of the leaders in the grass division now, and we have to look ahead and try to find the best way to get him to the Breeders Cup Turf."

Penny's Gold wins after layoff

With Anticipation represents a good job of training and so does Penny's Gold, winner of Sunday's $200,000 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Jerry Bailey rode the winner.

Penny's Gold, a 4-year-old daughter of Kingmambo, came from France last fall after a 3-year-old campaign that saw her coming to hand the second half of the season. She won a graded stakes at a mile in an impressive 1:32.80 at the important Deauville meeting, and was beaten only two lengths in the prestigious Group 2 Prix du Rond Point at Longchamp.

Since coming to the U.S. she has excelled for owner Overbrook Farm and trainer Chris Clement, winning in allowance company and then capturing two small stakes. The Ballston Spa field was the best she has faced in the States, and she won it despite a lengthy absence. She hadn't started since April 12.

"I was going to run her Belmont Stakes Day in June," Clement noted "but she got sick and we had to scratch. I trained her up to the Ballston Spa, and she breezed nicely. She's a good filly. She has some pedigree, as well as speed.

"She's from the family of Mrs. Penny, who won the French Oaks of 1980 and later came to the United States."

Clement proposes to run Penny's Gold next in the $500,000 Diana Handicap on the closing-day program here on Labor Day. The Diana is run at nine furlongs, while Clement feels Penny's Gold is best at a mile. He has great confidence in this filly, however, and is willing to take a chance her class can overcome any distance limitations.