05/14/2003 11:00PM

Best Minister: Another Sarava?


ELMONT, N.Y. - Nobody knew it at the time, but 4 1/2 hours before War Emblem won last year's Preakness Stakes, a Belmont Stakes winner was being born.

Sarava, just a maiden winner entering the Sir Barton Stakes, romped to a four-length victory in the race. Three weeks later he upended War Emblem's Triple Crown bid by becoming the longest priced (70-1) winner of the Belmont Stakes.

Saturday, McPeek will send out another maiden winner, Best Minister, in the Sir Barton. A field of eight was entered for the $125,000 Sir Barton, run at 1 1/16 miles over Pimlico's main track. The Sir Barton is one of three stakes races other than the Preakness for 3-year-olds on Pimlico's 13-race card.

Best Minister, a 3-year-old son of Deputy Minister, comes off a 12-length victory in a nine-furlong maiden race at Keeneland May 12. He earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

"He's just taken some time coming around," said Helen Pitts, an assistant trainer for McPeek. "He's very, very well-bred but he's just one of the ones that's taken some time to develop."

Edgar Prado, who rode Sarava last year, will ride Best Minister from post 4.

During, trained by Bob Baffert, tries to rebound from a seventh-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 3 Bay Shore Stakes at Aqueduct April 12. In the Bay Shore, he got away poorly and chased a fast pace before backing up. Pat Day rides.

Sky Soldier won the first three races of his career, including the Private Terms Stakes in the mud, before finishing seventh in the Wood Memorial. He shows two bullet workouts at Penn National and gets a rider switch from Rodrigo Madrigal to Jerry Bailey.

Prospect's Thunder, Desert Warrior, and Penobscot Bay complete the field. Gang and Get Smarter have been scratched to run in other races on the card, reducing the Sir Barton field to six.

Woodlawn: Frankel versus Mott

A dozen 3-year-olds were entered for the $125,000 Woodlawn Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on turf, but with rain in the forecast it's unlikely the gate will be full come post time. The race already lost Prospect's Thunder, who instead will run in the Sir Barton.

Four of the 11 remaining horses have no turf experience and look to have been entered in hopes of the race coming off the grass. If the race stays on the grass, several trainers will evaluate the condition of the turf course before deciding whether to run.

As long as the Woodlawn stays on the turf, Urban King looms the one to beat for trainer Bobby Frankel. An Irish-bred son of Desert King, Urban King successfully handled soft turf in France before finishing third in his North American debut, the La Puente Stakes at Santa Anita April 12. In that one-mile race, Urban King broke slowly and tried to close into relatively soft fractions.

"He really finished good at the end," Frankel said. "The last 50, 60 yards he was really coming."

The extra sixteenth of a mile should help, as well as the presence of Edgar Prado, who picks up the mount.

Trainer Bill Mott would like to see more scratches so Silver Tree is not forced to break from post 11. Silver Tree, a full brother to multiple turf stakes winner Orchard Park, is 2 for 2 on turf.

"He's perfect so far and he seems to be able to run," Mott said. "He's got a little pedigree and hopefully, there's something there."

Mott is one trainer who wants to see the condition of the turf course before deciding whether to run.

Hot Hand, Il Barone, and Kicken Kris are contenders if the race stays on turf.

Hirsch Jacobs: Mt. Carson tough

Mt. Carson won a stakes race around two turns last year at Delaware Park, but it looks like his best game may be sprinting. That's why he looms the one to beat in Saturday's $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes at six furlongs.

Mt. Carson won the Dover Stakes at one mile last October. In two starts this year, both at six furlongs, he finished third in the Horatius Stakes in March before coming back to win a second-level allowance race and earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 94.

Having drawn post 7 in the eight-horse field, Mt. Carson should work out a good stalking trip under jockey Ramon Dominguez.

Trainer Linda Rice scratched Get Smarter from the Sir Barton and instead will run him in the Hirsch Jacobs. Since adding blinkers last summer at Saratoga, Get Smarter has two wins and a second, the loss coming by a neck to Cajun Beat in the Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream in April.

Love Sam, who dominated Maryland-bred sprinters when winning last month's Star de Naskra, is 2 for 2 at Pimlico. His trainer, Earl Begley, is off to a hot start at the meet (4 for 10) and the colt figures to sit just off the pace.

Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. ships Epic from New York for the Hirsch Jacobs. Epic, a son of Tale of the Cat, was very impressive winning an entry-level allowance race at Aqueduct April 24. He picks up the services of Jerry Bailey.

Completing the field are Deadline and Gators N Bears, who were the one-two finishers in the Horatius Stakes, Moses Jerome, and Only the Best.