05/10/2006 11:00PM

Career revived, Pisgah seeks first stakes

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Bill Denver / EQUI-PHOTOS
Strong Contender will be ridden by Mike Smith in next Saturday's Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Scott Lake has had a number of talented sprinters. His latest is Pisgah, a 5-year-old gelded son of Good and Tough who has turned from underachiever to virtually unbeatable.

Coming off a track-record performance in an allowance race at Delaware Park on April 25, Pisgah will seek his first stakes victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Bold Ruler Handicap at Belmont Park. Pisgah has won 3 of his last 4 starts, his only loss coming to Kelly's Landing, a stakes winner and a track-record holder at Churchill Downs.

"He's a horse that always had a ton of talent, and we knew it, and we gelded him last year and it took a long time for him to come around and get right," Lake said of Pisgah. "And since then he's just been freakish."

Pisgah ran the race of his life last month at Delaware Park, where he won an optional claiming race by six lengths while running six furlongs in 1:07.92, a track record. Lake, who has trained talented sprinters Shake You Down, Thunderello, My Cousin Matt, and Don Six, said a few changes have brought the best out in Pisgah.

First was Lake's decision to geld Pisgah in the spring of 2005. Pisgah was a handful to train, and gelding him helped calm him down. Secondly, Lake used different equipment to train Pisgah in the morning, giving the rider more control of the horse.

"He's always been a real handful, and we changed equipment on him and he's been great in the mornings," Lake said. "He goes out there like a baby."

Pisgah won two races in a 10-day period last July before running second in the Hockessin Stakes at Delaware on Aug. 29. One morning after that race, Pisgah got loose at Delaware and hurt himself. He spent a month in the New Jersey Equine Clinic.

"He fell on the road last year and put a hole in his back leg, and it went into the joint capsule," Lake said. "He didn't need surgery, but they had to flush that joint out everyday. Dr. [Scott] Palmer called me and said he's one of the toughest horses he's ever been around."

Smith will ride Strong Contender

Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith has landed the mount on Strong Contender for next Saturday's $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes. On Thursday, Smith got acquainted with Strong Contender, putting him through a five-furlong work that Belmont clockers timed in 1:01.97.

Strong Contender got his last three furlongs in the work in 36.74 seconds. He galloped out a mile in 1:44.60.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to ride him," Smith said. "He's a beautiful horse. He just moves unbelievable. He's very deceiving. You feel like you're going a lot slower than you are. He just has a nice fluid, big, beautiful stride, and he galloped out great, which I was real happy to see. He seemed to handle the track good."

Trainer John Ward said he moved the work up from Saturday because of the threat of rain hitting the area Friday.

Strong Contender won his first two starts before finishing third, beaten 17 1/2 lengths, in the Blue Grass. He did finish ahead of Bluegrass Cat, who came back to finish second in the Kentucky Derby. Strong Contender did not have enough graded stakes earnings to make it into the Kentucky Derby field.

"It took him every bit of the three weeks to bounce back out of that race," Ward said. "It was a wise decision, by fate, not to have run in [the Derby]. He sets up for this better."

Among the other 3-year-olds considered definite for the Peter Pan are Doc Cheney, Lewis Michael, Sunriver, and Testimony. Those considered possible are Diabolical, Harborage, Putonyerdancinshuz, and Really Indian.

Certifiably Crazy to return in Kingston

Weather permitting, Certifiably Crazy, the champion New York-bred male turf horse of 2005, will make his season debut in Sunday's $100,000 Kingston Handicap. The Kingston, restricted to New York breds, is scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf course. Rain is in the forecast, however, which could force the race to the main track.

Certifiably Crazy went 2 for 8 last year, but won the Ashley T. Cole and finished a game second in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker Handicap. He finished the year with a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Red Smith.

Certifiably Crazy wintered in Ocala and resumed light training in January. Before shipping to trainer Richard Schosberg in New York, Certifiably Crazy breezed three times at Gulfstream.

"He's ready to start the season," Schosberg said. "I don't know if we'll get to start the season."

Schosberg said Certifiably Crazy would not run if the race is moved to the dirt. If it stays on turf, Certifiably Crazy is the 120-pound highweight.

The Kingston is expected to feature the winners of the other New York-bred turf stakes run last year: Dave, who won the West Point at Saratoga, and Golden Commander, who won last year's Kingston. Others expected to run include Pa Pa Da, Retribution, Chestertown Slew, No Parole, Charimount, and Irving's Doers.

Nothing But Fun takes Mil Kilates

Nothing But Fun, who suffered her first defeat in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, made a successful 4-year-old debut Thursday, rolling to a 1 3/4-length victory in the $65,450 Mil Kilates Stakes.

Under Richard Migliore, Nothing But Fun dueled outside of Satin Kiss through a half-mile in 46.02 seconds, struck the front leaving the half-mile pole, and easily held off Classy Charm through the stretch.

Nothing But Fun ($5.70) covered the mile in 1:35.79. She could be a candidate to run in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 17.