07/03/2001 12:00AM

Aptitude's next test at Saratoga


Aptitude, who won Sunday's Hollywood Gold Cup via disqualification, will be part of a 17-horse contingent that trainer Bobby Frankel will have this summer at Saratoga. But Frankel said that Aptitude is unlikely to run July 28 in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap, Saratoga's premier race for older horses, and will instead await the $200,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap on Aug. 19.

The reasoning, according to Frankel, is both time and distance. He wants to give Aptitude extra time between races, and he believes that the 1 1/4 miles of the Saratoga Breeders' Cup better suits Aptitude than the Whitney's 1 1/8 miles.

"I've already got 13 back at Belmont now," Frankel said. "I'll be spending a lot of time in Saratoga this summer."

His East Coast string will be overseen by longtime foreman Ruben Loza, and "the gallop boy to the stars," Frankel said, referring to Jose Cuevas.

Frankel said he decided to send Aptitude to New York, rather than to Del Mar, because he does not believe Del Mar suits Aptitude's late-running style. In addition, Frankel still has a top older horse for Del Mar in Skimming, who was a front-running winner of last year's Pacific Classic. "I don't think anybody can beat him there," Frankel said.

Both Aptitude and Skimming are owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms. In addition to Aptitude, other horses Frankel will be sending from California to Saratoga include Flute and Squirtle Squirt. Flute, the Kentucky Oaks winner, will be pointed for the $750,000 Alabama Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on Aug. 18. Squirtle Squirt, an unlucky loser when second in Sunday's Triple Bend at Hollywood Park, will shoot for his first Grade 1 victory in the $200,000 King's Bishop Stakes for 3-year-olds on Aug. 25.

"Wasn't that a shame he lost?" Frankel said, referring to the Triple Bend, in which Squirtle Squirt dueled with Explicit through swift early fractions, put away that rival, only to be caught late by the longshot Ceeband. "I feel bad for a horse like that. He ran so freaking fast. I'm becoming very fond of him. Even when he gets tired, he doesn't give it up. He keeps plugging away."

Futural goes next in Pacific Classic

While Frankel was giddy after being placed first in a pair of Grade 1 races on Sunday, the Gold Cup disqualification was a difficult result for Craig Dollase, the trainer of Futural, who crossed the finish line first in the Gold Cup. But Dollase on Tuesday tried to shrug off the disappointment, and focused on making amends this summer at Del Mar.

"I'm recuperating," Dollase said. "It was a tough blow. There's no question there was an incident, but I didn't think it affected the outcome of the race. The finish was not altered. If Captain Steve had not been inside of Skimming, Skimming wouldn't have bumped off of him, and it probably wouldn't have looked as bad.

"The horse knows he won. I'm pleasantly surprised with how he's doing. He was a little tired, that's all. On to the next one."

That, according to Dollase, will be the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 19. There is a chance, however, that Futural will prep in the $250,000 San Diego Handicap on July 29.

"I just found out he's not Breeders' Cup eligible. That kind of threw a monkey wrench into our plans," Dollase said. "If he happens to keep his form, we'll have to put up a hefty sum" to run in the Breeders' Cup Classic, highlight of the World Thoroughbred Championships on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.

Dollase also is preparing the crack sprinter Swept Overboard for a showdown with division leaders Kona Gold and Caller One in the $200,000 Bing Crosby Handicap on July 22, the first weekend of the meeting at Del Mar. "That's coming up a strong race," Dollase said. Caller One was scratched from the Triple Bend, but worked a half-mile in 47.20 seconds Monday at Hollywood Park.

Plans for Point Given are flexible

Point Given, the winner of the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, is taking it easy at Santa Anita. He has not had a workout since the Belmont, and trainer Bob Baffert said he is in no hurry to force Point Given to do anything.

"The Triple Crown takes a toll," Baffert said. "I don't want to run him just to run him. I want him at his best for the Breeders' Cup."

Monmouth Park is trying to lure Point Given to the Haskell Invitational Aug. 5, by raising the purse above its advertised $1 million, but Baffert said the Haskell is "not definite."

"I'd like to run," Baffert said. "They're going to bump up the purse, but it's not about money. He's got to be doing well."