09/19/2007 11:00PM

Any Given Saturday tunes up in Brooklyn

EmailELMONT, N.Y. - When one sees Any Given Saturday in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park, it's fair to ask what is a horse like that doing in a race like this?

But as a means to an end – that being the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic - the Brooklyn makes sense for Any Given Saturday. The once prestigious Brooklyn has gotten lost in the glut of handicap races run in both the spring and fall. Its placement, just eight days out from the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, is an indication the Brooklyn is for second-tier horses.

Any Given Saturday is a first-tier horse, and trainer Todd Pletcher is simply using the race as a stepping-stone to the Classic at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27. Pletcher likes the five weeks between races and the fact he doesn't have to ship. In the summer, Any Given Saturday won the Dwyer 32 days before taking the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.

"Obviously, the Jockey Club Gold Cup is a bigger purse and a Grade 1, but we're trying to avoid that really hard race between now and the Breeders Cup," Pletcher said. "Not to say that this is an easy race necessarily, but on paper it's easier."

The Brooklyn tops an 11-race card on Saturday that includes the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory Steeplechase and the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom.

Any Given Saturday is a three-time stakes winner, including authoritative victories in the Dwyer and Haskell Invitational. Those wins came after he recovered from a bruised foot, presumably suffered when he finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby.

On speed figures, Any Given Saturday seems an improved horse now from the spring, when he won the Sam Davis and was beaten a nose by Street Sense in the Tampa Bay Derby.

"I think he has become more professional in the way he finishes his races," said Pletcher, whose horse will break from post 2 under Garrett Gomez and high weight of 118 pounds.

Though Tasteyville could get loose on the lead, Any Given Saturday's toughest rival figures to be Sightseeing, who won the Peter Pan here but who comes off a fourth-place finish in the Travers, beaten 11 lengths by Street Sense. Trainer Shug McGaughey is taking the blinkers off the 3-year-old Sightseeing.

"I didn't know if he could beat Street Sense or not, but he trained so well to run the way he ran [was disappointing]," he said. "He might have laid up too close, but Edgar [Prado] was trying to win the race."

Helsinki, third in the Travers, and Awesome Twist, second in last year's Brooklyn, complete the field.