10/20/2001 11:00PM

BC Roundup: Will Spain reign again?

Email

ELMONT, N.Y. - Spain served notice Sunday morning that she does not intend to relinquish the crown quietly.

Winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, Spain turned in a sharp five-furlong work in 1:00.40 that has put visions of a encore in the mind of trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

"Spain went very well today," Lukas said. "She was completely on top of her game. I don't think she can look any better physically than she does right now."

Spain, who won the Distaff at 55-1 odds last year, looms a single-digit proposition in the 2001 edition of the $2 million Grade 1 stakes despite a 1-for-7 record this year. She is coming into the opening race of the World Thoroughbred Championships off a troubled third in the Beldame at Belmont, finishing just 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Exogenous and earning a year-high Beyer Speed Figure of 107.

MILE

The $1 million Mile lost a prospective starter when the connections of I Love Silver decided to keep their horse in California.

Though 19 horses were pre-entered in the Mile, it appears no one will be excluded. Aside from the defection of I Love Silver from the main body of the race, No Excuse Needed ran this weekend in Europe, Hap is expected to run in the Turf and Banks Hill is being pointed toward the Filly and Mare Turf. That should open spots in the field for Express Tour, Bach, Sarafan and Slew Valley, who were originally placed on the also-eligible list.

Crystal Music, who is also on the also-eligible list for the Mile, is expected to wind up in the Filly and Mare Turf.

City Zip, who was pre-entered in the Mile and Sprint, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 Sunday over Belmont's turf course. Trainer Linda Rice said it's 70-30 that City Zip, whose first preference was the Mile, will indeed run in the mile turf stakes.

"The weather will play a big part in our decision," Rice said. "I want a firm course for him."

Balto Star also worked five furlongs, stopping the clock in a more leisurely 1:03.60.

"He always trains hard and puts a lot into his gallops, but today was different," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "He was more relaxed. I guess it was because he was galloping around the cones and was about 15 wide."

The aforementioned Sarafan was also busy Sunday, working six furlongs in 1:14 over the turf course.

The work was anything but smooth as the Kelso Handicap runner-up finished second again - to a workmate.

"There was a bit of a training error there," trainer Neil Drysdale said. "The work didn't go according to plan. He was supposed to be alongside and not behind. He was behind the whole way."

SPRINT

Left Bank and Squirtle Squirt, who ran 1-2, respectively, in Belmont's Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes, were both on the track Sunday for their final work in preparation for the $1 million Sprint.

Left Bank, covered five furlongs in 1:02.40 while Squirtle Squirt went four furlongs in a bullet 45.80 seconds under exercise rider Anna Hollander.

Squirtle Squirt, who figures to be in the thick of the battle for the early lead in the six-furlong Sprint, ripped through his opening quarter-mile in 21.20 seconds.

"It's probably a combination of him being a very good work horse and being very sharp," said Squirtle Squirt's trainer, Bobby Frankel. "I'm going to have to adjust his training - just play around with him."

Hook and Ladder also tuned up for the Sprint with a 1:00.60 five-furlong work. Hook and Ladder is the first alternate on the also-eligible list and is a probable starter.

TURF

Scratch Blueprint from the Turf.

The Sunset Handicap winner will not run in the World Thoroughbred Championships due to a strained suspensory ligament.

Timboroa, who won Belmont's Turf Classic last month at the Turf distance of 1 1/2 miles, worked in a pedestrian 1:18 Sunday for Frankel.

"He went a little slower than I would have liked, but he'll be all right," Frankel said.

JUVENILE FILLIES

The Drysdale-trained Bella Bellucci prepped for her litmus test in the Juvenile Fillies with a 48-second work on Sunday.

Bella Bellucci has won both of her career starts and took Belmont's Astarita in her last outing.

"She went by herself this morning, but she's done quite a bit of work with other horses," Drysdale said. "She worked with horses prior to and after her first start. She was going at a nice cruising speed and was well within herself."

Meanwhile, Shesastonecoldfox, an undefeated, 4-for-4 New York State-bred, breezed six furlongs in a crisp 1:13.40.

"I thought the work was very good," trainer Anthony Ferraro said. "In had her going a little bit quicker. I wanted her to go easy the first part and pick it up every furlong from the three-eighths pole."