06/24/2002 11:00PM

Atelier a dangerous dark horse

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OCEANPORT, N.J. - Trainer Shug McGaughey has won the Molly Pitcher Handicap four times in the last 14 years, more than any other trainer in the race's storied 56-year history. McGaughey has come through Monmouth Park to win the stakes with Hall of Famer Personal Ensign, champion mare Inside Information, Versailles Treaty, and Rare Blend.

Assistant trainer Buzz Tenney, who has been with the stable since 1985, says Atelier compares favorably with Versailles Treaty, who won the Alabama and twice was second in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and Rare Blend.

, who will start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher for fillies and mares on Saturday, has credentials that aren't nearly as impressive as McGaughey's Molly Pitcher winners. But she is not without distinction in her career. The 5-year-old Atelier is a multiple Grade 3 winner who seems to have gotten better with age. Last fall, for example, Atelier finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, a race in which Tenney said she could have been second.

Atelier hasn't won in three starts this year, however, and in her last race, the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap, she ran last in a five-horse field.

Tenney, who is overseeing the barn's operations while McGaughey is recuperating from triple bypass surgery, said he still doesn't know what happened to her in the Shuvee on May 18.

"We were disappointed with her last race," he said. "We couldn't find out why she ran so poorly. But she's coming into the Molly Pitcher in very good shape."

Tenney said the Molly Pitcher has always been highly regarded by the stable, and because of McGaughey's success in the race, he no doubt aims for it. Atelier will ship from Belmont the morning of the race and Edgar Prado is slated to ride.

While McGaughey's past winners of the race were heavy favorites, Atelier will be overlooked with the presence of Spain and Summer Colony. The race will serve as an opportunity to regain the form she displayed in the Breeders' Cup. And if she can upset Spain and Summer Colony, Atelier will move closer to truly being mentioned in the same breath as some of McGaughey's past Molly Pitcher winners.

"This can be the springboard to get back to her top form again," Tenney said. "If she runs her race we'll be okay."

Werner juveniles getting sharp

Sunday was a very busy day for Ronny Werner's barn, as he had 12 horses working out over the fast track. Two notables on the work tab for Werner were 2-year-olds Down Play and Kool Humor, who worked together.

Down Play ran third in the $100,000 Flash Stakes at Belmont on June 7 and logged his first workout since that race. With jockey Dale Beckner aboard, Down Play went five furlongs in 1:00.80. Werner said Down Play will run next in a one-other-than allowance for 2-year-olds here Friday, but 2-year-old races have had trouble filling this meet. If the race does fill, it will be the first entry-level allowance for 2-year-old colts this meet.

Kool Humor worked with Tommy Turner in the saddle, and he traveled five furlongs from the gate in 1:00.20. Kool Humor, a Jersey-bred, was purchased in February at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-old in training sale at Calder in by Tom Durant for $60,000. Werner, who is very high on the colt, said Kool Humor would make his career debut July 5 in a statebred maiden special weight.

"We picked him out because he was by Distorted Humor, and one of my best 2-year-old fillies is by Distorted Humor," Werner said. "He didn't work very fast at the sale but he did it very easily. We have a lot of options with him because he's shown that he'll want to run long also."

Hartmann taking filly to New York

Milliondollarlady, third in the Fashion Stakes at Belmont on June 6, will make her next start in the $100,000 Astoria Stakes at Belmont this Sunday, trainer Mary Hartmann said.

Milliondollarlady went through her final workout for the Astoria on Saturday, breezing four furlongs out of the gate in 48.20 seconds. Hartmann said she breezed her out of the gate because in the Fashion Stakes she broke awkwardly.

Javier Castellano picked up the mount on Milliondollarlady in the Fashion because regular rider Rachel Lavoy had been hurt the previous day at Monmouth. He retains the mount Sunday.

Sanford next for Raise an Emblem

Two-year-old Raise an Emblem logged his first workout at Monmouth Saturday after being laid up since running in the Three Chimneys Juvenile at Churchill Downs May 4.

Raise an Emblem breezed three furlongs in 36.60 in what trainer Carl Deville called "a nice, good work" for his first time back to the track since May. Raise an Emblem will have a month of training leading up to a start in the Grade 2 Sanford at Saratoga on July 25, Deville said.

Raise an Emblem won his maiden at Keeneland on opening day, April 18, but then finished 12th in the Three Chimneys Juvenile. Deville said the colt did not suffer an injury in his last race but was just given off time to freshen up for a summer campaign.

Honey West heads feature

Honey West, trained by Charlie Harvatt, puts her two-race Monmouth winning streak on the line in the featured optional claiming/three-other-than allowance on Thursday, carded as the eighth race. Honey West, a 4-year-old filly, recorded her best career Beyer Speed Figure (89) in her last race and will be tough to knock off if she repeats that performance.

The biggest competition to Honey West is Nash's Prospect, trained by Philadelphia Park-based trainer David Dotolo. She ran second in the $75,000 My Juliet Stakes at Philly Park on May 25, recording a career-best 88 Beyer Speed Figure. She will be closing late and will need a quick pace scenario to set up her late kick.