08/31/2001 11:00PM

Bailey breaks his own Saratoga win record


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Jerry Bailey established a new record for wins at a Saratoga meeting by a jockey when he won Saturday's sixth race aboard Listen Here, a first-time starter trained by Bill Mott. It was his 51st win, which eclipsed the old mark of 50 set by Bailey last summer.

Bailey said breaking the record meant little if he did not also capture the 2001 riding title. Bailey also won Saturday's Forego Handicap with Delaware Township and ended the day with a 53-46 lead over John Velazquez. Bailey is going after his third consecutive Saratoga riding title and and seventh overall.

"Jerry's very determined, and if anybody was going to break his old mark it was going to be him," Mott said.

Listen Here also gave Mott his 21st win of the meet, eclipsing his personal best of 20 but leaving him four shy of the Saratoga record of 24, established by the late Hall of Famer Sylvester Veitch during a 24-day meet in 1954.

A strong second best

In almost any other year, jockey John Velazquez's 46 wins through Saturday would have been more than enough to win the Saratoga riding title. Velazquez won the title in 1998 with 31 wins. But this year, he will almost certainly finish behind Bailey.

"I think the difference is he's riding a lot better horses than I did," Velazquez said. "He's a great rider, you can't take that away from him."

Velazquez said he would remember the meet as a positive experience.

"Pretty much the whole meet's been great," said Velazquez, who on Aug. 5 became the sixth rider to win five races on a Saratoga card. "It's the best I've had so far. Unfortunately, though I've won so many races this meet, I can't win the meet. It's been good, really good. A whole lot better than last year."

Last year, Velazquez was injured on the 10th day of the meet and missed the remainder of it.

Saratoga in his rearview mirror

No one was happier to see the calendar change to September more than trainer Nick Zito. After a disastrous August - in which he only won one race - Zito will look to the fall to provide some happier moments.

Saturday morning, the future looked pretty bright for Zito, as his top handicap horse Albert the Great sizzled five furlongs in 59.06 seconds over a muddy Saratoga main track. The work, the fastest of 13 at the distance, was his final move before Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward Handicap at Belmont Park.

With regular rider Jorge Chavez aboard, Albert the Great started a length behind stablemate Inaugural Address, and fell three lengths behind him around the turn before finishing eight in front at the wire.

"He really breezed good," Chavez said. "I think he's better than ever. It was a nice move without using him too much. I like how he worked. The track was a little uneven, heavy in some spots, nothing in other spots."

Zito does not normally have jockeys work his horses, nor does he often work Albert the Great in company. He said he used the stablemate because "if you don't start him off, he doesn't get interested. He hasn't run in five weeks and I just wanted to have his mind on it."

Zito entered Saturday's program 1 for 60 at the meet. His only win came Aug. 6 with The Goo. Since then, he had lost with 35 straight starters.

Albert the Great is coming off a second-place finish behind Lido Palace in the Whitney. In that race, he was spotting Lido Palace nine pounds. The Whitney is weight-for-age, meaning older horses carry 126 pounds, 3-year-olds carry 122. Moreover, the Woodward is run at Belmont, where Albert the Great is 6 for 7.

The Woodward is shaping up to be a great race. In addition to Albert the Great, it features 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet, and Lido Palace. All are

4-year-olds. Country Be Gold, a recent allowance winner, is possible for the race.

Also on Saturday, Zito confirmed that A P Valentine will make his next start in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 6 at Belmont.

Mandy's Gold set for comeback

Mandy's Gold, who has been sidelined since the April 13 Comely Stakes, is expected to return within the next month. Mandy's Gold suffered her only defeat in the Comely Stakes, when she was disqualified from first and placed second behind Two Item Limit.

Trainer Mike Gorham said Mandy's Gold has breezed three times in preparation for her return.

"I just felt she needed a little time off," said Gorham. "I wanted to have a fresh horse for the fall."

Mandy's Gold won her first four starts, all sprints, before stretching out to a one-turn mile in the Comely. A daughter of Gilded Time, she crossed the wire in front of Two Item Limit but was deemed to have interfered with her.

"I thought the decision could have gone either way," said Gorham. "Naturally it was disappointing, especially since she was undefeated and it was her first graded race."

* Flute, winner of the Alabama, worked a half-mile in 48.02 seconds over a muddy Saratoga main track Saturday. It was the fastest of three moves at the distance. Trainer Bobbby Frankel said he is still uncertain whether Flute will start before the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Oct. 27. If she does, it will come in the Grade 1 $750,000 Beldame on Oct. 6.

- additional reporting by David Grening