08/30/2002 11:00PM

Big-league leap for Ibn Al Haitham

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Making the jump from a maiden win straight into stakes company is usually a formidable proposition. But Ibn Al Haitham was not your run-of-the-mill maiden when he raced on the grass for the first time and posted a convincing 9 1/2-length victory earlier in the meet.

Ibn Al Haitham was already

Grade 2 stakes-placed on dirt when he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 trouncing maiden special weight company in his grass debut. Despite the sharp class hike he will be among the top contenders when he faces eight other 3-year-olds in Monday's $100,000-added Saranac Handicap at 1 3/16 miles on the turf.

The Grade 3 Saranac highlights the final card of the 2002 Saratoga meeting.

"Obviously he took to the grass very well. The way he finished was very impressive, but it's a big step up from maiden to stakes company," said Kiaran McLaughlin who took over the training of Ibn Al Haitham just before the opening of the Saratoga meet.

"One thing in his favor is that he does have back class, and the breeding is certainly there for the turf. The win got some confidence under his belt, and he's done fabulous since he ran. It's going to be hard to keep him on the ground until the race Monday. He's going to be a stakes winner on turf somewhere down the line. Whether it will be Monday or not remains to be seen."

Richard Migliore will be aboard Ibn Al Haitham for the first time in the Saranac, replacing Jerry Bailey, who opted for the 120-pound highweight and likely favorite, Miesque's Approval.

Miesque's Approval has not finished worse than second in his last seven starts and comes into the Saranac off an easy 4 1/4-length victory in Delaware's Grade 3 Kent Breeders' Cup Handicap on July 21. He is a fresh horse, having started just twice this year, and he performs well over firm or soft ground.

Quest Star bounced back from his third-place finish in the Kent to upset the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Handicap here earlier in the meet, rallying from off the pace to a 1 1/2-length victory. He will carry 118 pounds and regular rider Pat Day in the Saranac.

"We took him back and he responded in his last two races," trainer Elliott Walden said of Quest Star. "I think he's the type of horse who could move forward."

Irish Colonial (115), Regal Sanction (115), Better Talk Now (113), Lord Burleigh (113), Fager's Island (114), and Finality (116) complete the lineup. Youghal Bay has been entered for main track only.