08/14/2002 11:00PM

With Bailey away, Prado to make hay

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With Jerry Bailey out of town both days this weekend, the opportunity is there for Edgar Prado to make things interesting in the race for Saratoga's leading rider.

Bailey, who had a meet-leading 32 victories through Thursday, will be at Arlington Park on Saturday to ride, among others, Beat Hollow in the Million. On Sunday, Bailey will be at Monmouth Park to ride Include in the Iselin Handicap.

Prado, meanwhile, closed the deficit to six with his victory aboard Charming Colony in Thursday's fifth race. Prado is listed to ride in all 10 races on Saturday, including three Bill Mott-trained mounts that probably would have been ridden by Bailey.

"Every day is an opportunity, even with him here," Prado said. "It makes it a little easier when he's not here. We'll try to pick up some of his mounts if we can."

One mount Prado picked up from Bailey is You, the Test winner, who will try to stretch out to 10 furlongs in the Grade 1 Alabama. Prado has ridden You before, including a victory in the Adirondack Stakes here last summer.

"The class is there for sure, and she doesn't have to be in front," Prado said when asked if You could get 10 furlongs.

Among the Mott-trained horses Prado picked up on Saturday is Delta Princess, an eight-length maiden winner on turf last November, who makes her first start in allowance company on Saturday. Prado also rides a first-time starter, Elton, for Mott.

Also on Saturday, Prado has picked up the mount on Unshaded, the 2000 Travers winner, in the $300,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Prado said he hopes to pick up a few winners on Bailey, and believes there is still time to make a run at the title.

"You go every day with a positive attitude, and if it's meant to be it's meant to be," Prado said. "Nothing's over till it's over, right?"

Smith eager for homecoming

While he now calls Southern California home, jockey Mike Smith could hardly contain his enthusiasm when talking about returning to New York when he rides at Saratoga this weekend. Smith has not ridden here since the summer of 2000. Smith was New York's leading rider from 1991 to 1993 and won Saratoga riding titles those three years.

He will arrive late Saturday morning to ride Bella Bellucci in Saturday's Grade 1 Alabama, a race he has won four times. He also has four other rides on the card, including Gander in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Smith, who turned 37 last Saturday, will remain at Saratoga on Sunday to ride Kirtle in the Lake Placid Handicap. Next weekend, he'll return to ride Saint Marden in the $1 million Travers.

"I'm excited about coming back," Smith said Thursday from Del Mar. "I think I called everybody I knew over there. It's going to be nice coming back, and then to get to ride a mare like Bella Bellucci in the Alabama is unbelievable."

Smith said he is also excited about riding Gander, a horse he's ridden against several times.

"I've seen his big gray butt enough," Smith said. "It'll be nice to see the back of his head, not his butt."

On Sunday, Smith will ride the Bob Hess Jr.-trained Kirtle in the Lake Placid, another Saratoga stakes race Smith has won four times. Smith rode Kirtle twice in California, finishing third in the Flawlessly Stakes and winning an entry-level allowance race.

"The first time she ran, she was at Hollywood and it was at night and she didn't know where she was," Smith said. "The other day, she just romped. When I got her out, she kicked by them like they were nothing. I got off her and told them to find some little stakes somewhere, and sure enough they found one at Saratoga."

Veitch scratches seven-year itch

Trainer John Veitch won a race at Saratoga for the first time in seven years on Thursday when first-time starter Vasquez, a 2-year-old daughter of Coronado's Quest, won the sixth race by a nose.

It was Veitch's first win at Saratoga since Aug. 12, 1995, when Sophie's Friend won. It was Veitch's first win in New York since Dec. 10, 1998, when Sampson won at Aqueduct.

"It's a terrible feeling to be here with horses that don't fit, like I was last year," said Veitch, who in 2001 trained several slow runners for Claiborne Farm. "Three or four of these have the pedigree to be here, and it's exciting."

Veitch trains 12 runners for John Ed Anthony's Shortleaf Stable. Eight of the 12 runners are 2-year-olds, including Vasquez, who Veitch felt might need a race despite showing a string of steady workouts.

"I thought it was a very good performance for a first-time starter," Veitch said. "I'm going to nominate her for the Spinaway."

Vasquez covered five furlongs in 59.47 seconds and returned $15.20 to win.

Veitch is also high on a 2-year-old named Asticou, a daughter of A.P. Indy out of a dam who is a half-sister to Grade 1 stakes winner Lil's Lad.

Wonder Again stirs Memories

Six years ago, trainer Jimmy Toner won the Lake Placid Handicap with Memories of Silver. Memories of Silver, an ultra-consistent stakes performer, won several important grass races during her career, including the Diana, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, and the Just a Game Breeders' Cup.

On Sunday, Toner shoots for his second Lake Placid win with Wonder Again, who like Memories of Silver is owned by John and Joan Phillips and is a daughter of Silver Hawk. Wonder Again makes her stakes debut in the 1 1/8-mile grass race for 3-year-old fillies.

Toner isn't proclaiming that Wonder Again is the next Memories of Silver, who he said was an "exceptional" horse. But he is encouraged from what he has seen from Wonder Again, a winner of two of five starts.

Wonder Again, a Silver Hawk filly, is coming off back-to-back wins on the grass, including a neck victory over a yielding course here on opening day.

"She's still learning, but she's a quality filly and we have high hopes for her," Toner said. "The last race was a real eye-opener. She was trapped inside and kicked on once clear. It was enough to get her intimidated and it didn't affect her at all."

Wonder Again gets in light with 114 pounds. Among the fillies Wonder Again is expected to meet are Riskaverse (120), Clefairy (118), Maliziosa (118), Bells for Marlin (116), and Kirtle (116).

Clefairy arrived from Italy on Wednesday and was bedded down in the quarantine barn on the Oklahoma backstretch.

In her last start, Clefairy, an Irish-bred, finished third in a Group 1 at Chantilly in France on June 26. Earlier this year, she finished sixth in the Group 1 Italian Oaks.

Clefairy's trainer, Luigi Riccardi, worked for trainer Christophe Clement one winter at Gulfstream Park, according to Clement.

Ballston Spa next for Voodoo Dancer

Clement said he was planning on running Voodoo Dancer, who suffered a heart-breaking nose defeat in the $500,000 Diana Handicap to Tates Creek, in the $200,000 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup Handicap on Travers Day, Aug. 24. The Ballston Spa is a Grade 3 at 1 1/16 miles.

Clement is loaded for bear in Saturday's $700,000 Beverly D. at Arlington Park with Volga and England's Legend, and decided the race's 1 3/16-mile distance was a bit too far Voodoo Dancer.

"A mile and a three-sixteenths is stretching it," Clement said. "The Diana also was a tough race, and she could use an extra week. She did everything but win."

McPeek eyes several stakes

Trainer Ken McPeek will be plenty busy with stakes starters for the last part of the meet.

Repent, the runner-up to War Emblem in the Illinois Derby, is expected to make his comeback in the $1 million Travers. The same day, Pisces, who was third in the Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup at Arlington July 6, will run in the $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap.

McPeek's stakes horses for the final week of racing are the 2-year-olds Midnight Cry and Risky Cat.

Midnight Cry, a daughter of Smart Strike, romped to a 4 1/4-length victory in her debut last Saturday and will run in the Grade 1 Spinaway Aug. 30. Risky Cat, a Tale of the Cat colt, is being pointed to the Grade 1 Hopeful the following day. He hasn't raced since winning a maiden race at Churchill Downs on June 8.

After watching Awesome Humor's strong performance in Monday's Adirondack, McPeek isn't underestimating the task at hand for Midnight Cry if she faces Awesome Humor in the Spinaway.

"Sometimes you have to throw them into the fray to see how good they are," McPeek said.

* Mike Lee winner No Parole breezed six furlongs in 1:15.65 Thursday on the main track. No Parole, who followed his Mike Lee victory with a third in the New York Derby, runs next in Wednesday's $150,000-added Albany. The 1 1/8-mile Albany is the final leg of the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds.

* Tickets are still available for Monday's 79th annual New York Turf Writers' Association Annual Dinner and Dance, to be held at the Gideon-Putnam Hotel here. Among those being honored for their achievements in and contributions to New York racing in 2001 are Barry K. Schwartz, Bobby Frankel, Jerry Bailey, John Velazquez, Juddmonte Farms, Edmund Gann, The Thoroughbred Corp., Eugene Melnyk, Point Given, and Say Florida Sandy.