08/29/2004 12:00AM

Birdstone's next start likely BC Classic


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Birdstone came out of his Travers victory on Saturday in fine shape, trainer Nick Zito reported Sunday morning, and he will make his next start in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park.

Zito said Sunday morning that he would run Birdstone in whichever race owner Marylou Whitney chose between the Jockey Club Gold Cup, run Oct. 2 at Belmont Park, or the Breeders' Cup Classic. Sunday morning, standing outside Zito's barn with her husband John Hendrickson, Whitney chose the Classic.

"We're looking forward to the Breeders' Cup, we have our reservations," Whitney said.

Said Zito: "If they want to go, we'll go. What am I going to do argue with the Queen? If he fires his best shot, let him fire his best shot for $4 million."

A win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, where he would face older horses for the first time including defending Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, could propel Birdstone past Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones for 3-year-old and possibly Horse of the Year honors. Earlier this year, Birdstone defeated Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes.

"He'd have to really come with a big run, if he's first or second he'd have a legitimate shot now," said Zito, who captured his first Travers from 12 starters. "Smarty brought everything to the table - he was undefeated - but this is a good horse too."

Zito reported that Travers runner-up The Cliff's Edge came out of the race okay although "his feet were stinging him a little bit," Zito added. Zito said he would like to make the Jockey Club Gold Cup with The Cliff's Edge.

Sir Shackleton, Zito's other Travers runner who finished fifth, bled in the race. Zito said. Future plans for him were undecided.

Trainer Mark Hennig said Travers third-place finisher Eddington came out of his race very well, but there were no immediate plans for him.

Purge, who finished fourth, also came out none the worse for wear, according to trainer Todd Pletcher, who said he felt coming back in 20 days after a powerful Jim Dandy win did catch up to his horse. Pletcher said there are no definitive plans for Purge's next start.

"Nothing's etched in stone. If we decide to go to the Breeders' Cup Classic it's not out of the question he would train just train up to that," Pletcher said.