07/18/2008 12:00AM

Big Brown on schedule for Haskell


ELMONT, N.Y. - With two weeks and two major workouts to go, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown "is right on schedule" for a start in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Friday.

The Haskell, run at 1 1/8 miles, would be Big Brown's first start since he was pulled up by jockey Kent Desormeaux in the Belmont Stakes on June 7.

Dutrow still doesn't have a plausible excuse for Big Brown's performance in the Belmont, but judging by the enthusiastic way in which the horse galloped 1 1/2 miles at Aqueduct on Friday morning, Big Brown appears to be rebounding from the grueling Triple Crown campaign.

Big Brown's coat and weight looked good Friday and he appeared livelier around the barn than he did shortly after the Belmont.

"He's bouncing now," exercise rider Michelle Nevin said.

Big Brown returned to the work tab July 2, working a pedestrian five furlongs in 1:06.71. Five days later he went the same distance in 1:02.86, and on July 14 he covered the same distance in 1:01.20.

"His first breeze back was just a nice, easy breeze," Dutrow said. "His second breeze was good, his third breeze was excellent, so he's right on schedule. He's got two more good breezes to go through. If he breezes like he has been then we're good to go."

Dutrow planned to breeze Big Brown at Aqueduct on Sunday morning then again the following weekend. Dutrow said it is possible he could ship Big Brown to Monmouth Park in time to have a three-furlong blowout a day or two before the Haskell.

Asked if he was starting to get excited about the Haskell, Dutrow said: "No, not at all. He's still got to pass a bunch of tests," he said referring to the upcoming workouts. "If he's in front turning for home, then I'll get excited; that's the only way I'm going to get excited."

There were 33 3-year-olds invited to the Haskell. Among those that are strongly being considered for the race are Atoned, Cool Coal Man, and Truth Rules.

Forego likely for Benny the Bull

Dutrow said he prefers the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga on Aug. 30 for Benny the Bull's next start rather than the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 27. The Forego would be Benny the Bull's final prep for the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

"I'd rather do the Forego," Dutrow said. "The Vosburgh is too close to the Breeders' Cup Sprint."

Benny the Bull won his fifth consecutive race July 12 when he took the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder. He is now 4 for 4 this year and is the leading candidate for champion sprinter.

Rising Moon works for Whitney

Rising Moon, third in the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap, worked six furlongs in 1:15.49 on Friday over Aqueduct's main track. He is preparing for a start in next Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga.

With jockey Cornelio Velasquez up, Rising Moon went his first quarter in 26.18 seconds and his last quarter in 23.81 while remaining three paths off the rail for the entire move. He galloped out seven furlongs in 1:29.55.

Dutrow and Velasquez were both satisfied with how Rising Moon worked. Rising Moon came out of the Suburban with a lung infection that has cleared up to where Dutrow has no qualms running him back in three weeks.

"I wouldn't be pointing him for that race if he gave it all he had and ran huge last time," Dutrow said.

One of Rising Moon's chief rivals in the Whitney will be Commentator, the 2005 Whitney winner, who worked four furlongs in 48.23 seconds Friday morning over Saratoga's training track.

Contessa breezes stakes fillies

The Gary Contessa-trained trio of Runway Rosie, Rite Moment, and Sweet Vendetta all put in workouts at Aqueduct on Friday in preparation for upcoming stakes engagements at Saratoga.

Runway Rosie, who won the Proud Delta overnight stakes on July 2, worked four furlongs in 48.54 seconds and is pointing to the Grade 1 Go for Wand on Saturday. Rite Moment, who is already a multiple Grade 2 winner this year, worked four furlongs in 49.23 seconds in preparation for a start in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss on Aug. 1. Sweet Vendetta, winner of the Black-Eyed Susan in her last start, worked six furlongs in 1:16.35 and could go next in either the Monmouth Oaks on Aug. 9 or the Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 16.

Rite Moment has a record of 5-2-1 from 8 starts and is coming off a third-place finish in the First Flight on July 4.

Contessa said Rite Moment had "some issues" between the Shuvee and the First Flight, but he believes those are behind her.

The Go for Wand will be a challenge for Runway Rosie, who will be facing the likes of defending Eclipse Award winner Ginger Punch.

"It's a tall order, but I don't know that it's a tall order to run third," Contessa said. "To run third in a Grade 1 would enhance her value tremendously."