06/29/2004 12:00AM

Binya looks to rebound in New York Handicap

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ELMONT, N.Y - Binya, who hasn't run since finishing third as the favorite in the Grade 3 Bewitch at Keeneland in April, will be back in action in Monday's $250,000 New York Handicap.

Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains Binya for Joe Allen, is very high on the 5-year-old grass mare. As a 3-year-old, Binya raced in France and was a listed stakes winner in sprints. Allen privately purchased the German-bred filly and brought her to the United States. While under trainer Christophe Clement's care for much of last year, Binya did not race.

Late in 2003, McLaughlin took over the training of Binya and had her ready to win a third-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 16, 2004, her first start since November 2002. Five weeks after her 3 1/4-length allowance victory, Binya won the Grade 3 The Very One by 2 1/2 lengths.

In the 1 1/2-mile Bewitch, Binya had the lead in midstretch, but weakened and finished third, beaten 1 1/2 lengths by the Clement-trained Meridiana.

McLaughlin said Binya had an excuse. "She bled out of both nostrils at the eighth pole," he said. "That's why we gave her 30 days or so before we worked her. She also was fighting the rider the first part of the race; she was a bit keen going that far."

John Velazquez, aboard Binya in each of her starts this year, has the mount in the 1 1/4-mile New York.

Spice Island is the expected starting highweight at 118 pounds, one pound more than Binya. The other probable runners are Meridiana (117); Stay Forever (115); Wonder Again (115); Potra Fabulous (114); and Humaita (113). Trainer Shug McGaughey is considering running either Miss Hellie or Alchemist.

Eye of the Tiger long overdue

McLaughlin also will run Eye of the Tiger in Sunday's Grade 2 Tom Fool. It has been more than 12 months since Eye of the Tiger has won a race for owner John Gunther, who moved the horse from the West Coast to McLaughlin's barn in the spring. In his last start, Eye of the Tiger finished seventh in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. Before the Met Mile, he was third in the Grade 1 Carter behind Pico Central and Strong Hope.

Ghostzapper will be the starting highweight at 119 pounds for the $150,000 Tom Fool. On Tuesday, trainer, Bobby Frankel, confirmed Ghostzapper would run in the seven-furlong race. Ghostzapper is expected to be favored in a small field. Eye of the Tiger was assigned 114 pounds.

The other expected starters are Lion Tamer (118); Unforgettable Max (114); and Aggadan (113).

Tom Fool nominee Canadian Frontier, who will not run in the race, worked five furlongs in 1:00.44 on the training track on Tuesday. Trainer Stanley Hough said he wants to keep Canadian Frontier, who won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler in May, in six-furlong races and will run him in either the $65,000 Longfellow at Monmouth on Saturday or the $500,000 Smile Sprint at Calder on July 10.

Quantum Merit works for Firecracker

Quantum Merit, who won the restricted Kingston on May 23, worked a half-mile in 51.14 seconds over the training track on Tuesday.

Quantum Merit was to leave Wednesday for Churchill Downs, where he will run in Saturday's $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup. Del Carroll II, Quantum Merit's trainer, won the Firecracker last year with Tap the Admiral.

Friendly Michelle tops Prioress field

After unsuccessfully attempting to stretch out to one mile in the Grade 1 Acorn, Friendly Michelle will cut back to six furlongs and try to get her Grade 1 victory in Saturday's $250,000 Prioress Stakes at Belmont Park.

On Sunday, Friendly Michelle worked five furlongs in 59.45 seconds, handily, at Belmont Park, the fastest of 28 works at the distance. It was her second work at Belmont since finishing third, beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Island Sand in the Acorn.

Prior to that, Friendly Michelle was very game winning the 7 1/2-furlong La Troienne at Churchill Downs on April 29.

"She worked really good, she's been here since the Acorn, she's had two breezes back and really looks good,'' said Tonja Terranova, who looks after trainer Bob Baffert's New York contingent. "She's put on a little weight and really breezed well [Sunday].''

Friendly Michelle, a daughter of Artax, has won four of five starts under one mile.

Corey Nakatani, who will ride Dynever in Saturday's Grade 1 Suburban Handicap, will ride Friendly Michelle in the Prioress.

The Prioress, the lone Grade 1 event for 3-year-old fillies run at six furlongs, is expected to draw a well-matched field. Among Friendly Michelle's challengers are Bending Strings, Feline Story, Forest Music, Rodeo Licious, She's a Mugs, and Why You. Bohemian Lady and either Aspen Gal or Reforest are possible.

Injury has Lucifer's Stone out of Oaks

Trainer Linda Rice had intended to ship Lucifer's Stone to California for this weekend's Grade 1, $750,000 American Oaks at Hollywood Park, but an injury to the filly's forearm kept her from competing.

Rice said Lucifer's Stone got spooked coming off the training track when someone slammed a car door. She fell and suffered a cut, which required several stitches. Lucifer's Stone missed about a week of training and will now be pointed to the Lake George Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 2.

"There are a lot of opportunities that come up this fall,'' said Rice, referring to Grade 1 events such as the Garden City Breeders' Cup at Belmont and Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. "Sometimes things work out for the best.''

Lucifer's Stone received an invitation to the American Oaks, based on victories in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride and Appalachian Stakes earlier this year. Most recently, Lucifer's Stone finished second in the Grade 3 Sands Point Handicap.

- additional reporting by David Grening