08/26/2004 12:00AM

Change Course takes another step up

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Graham Motion is clearly a patient man.

Motion has needed more than 18 months to get Change Course back to where the colt was before he sustained a foot injury as a 2-year-old.

Saturday, Motion will find out just how far Change Course has come when the colt makes his stakes debut in the $50,000 Leader of the Band, a 1 1/16-mile turf race at Delaware Park.

In late fall of 2002, Change Course stepped on a piece of wood and developed an abscess. The injury sidelined Change Course for close to 11 months and limited him to only two starts as a 3-year-old.

"He has always had problems with his feet," Motion said. "It seems like now we have really got him on track and gotten him to where he is basically over his foot problem."

This summer, Change Course has finally started to put everything together, improving his Beyer Speed Figures from a 77 in April to a 91 for his nose victory in an optional claiming race July 31. It was his second straight victory over Delaware's grass course.

"Off his last two races, this race is the logical progression," Motion said. "He's coming into the race super."

Change Course will need to be at his best in the Leader of the Band, which came up exceptionally strong for an overnight stakes. The 10-horse field includes multiple stakes winners La Reine's Terms and Dr. Kashnikow, both of whom have earned more than $600,000.

La Reine's Terms, a 9-year-old making a comeback after missing all of 2003, was scratched out of last weekend's Find Handicap at Pimlico when the race came off the turf. He won five stakes in 2002.

Dr. Kashnikow won the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga in 2001 and the Grade 3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs in November 2002. A 7-year-old, he has lost seven in a row since then, and in his only start since last October he stumbled and lost his rider coming out of the gate.