07/30/2003 12:00AM

Congrats ready for next big step


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Shug McGaughey is looking forward to the opportunity of running Congrats, a lightly raced 3-year-old colt, in the $500,000 Jim Dandy on Sunday at Saratoga despite the presence of seasoned horses like Empire Maker.

Congrats, a homebred son of A.P. Indy, has won 3 of 5 starts and is coming off his best effort yet - a 5 1/4-length second-level allowance victory while racing with Lasix for the first time. He was bred and is owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.

"He's going to fit in with them on Sunday," McGaughey said. "Whether he can beat them, I'm not sure. I know he'll run that far, and he's getting quite a bit of weight from Empire Maker so we thought we'd take a shot and see just where we stand."

Other horses expected to enter the Jim Dandy, a Grade 2 race for 3-year-olds which is run at 1 1/8 miles, include During, Nacheezmo, Tafaseel, and Strong Hope.

"Strong Hope and Nacheezmo are both coming off tough races over the fourth of July weekend, and I'm pretty sure he'll stand up to them," McGaughey said. "Obviously Empire Maker is a very nice horse, take nothing away from him. But he's got some quirks too. In fact, he reminds me a little of Coronado's Quest, and sometimes those things catch up with you somewhere along the line."

This could be a big weekend for McGaughey. In addition to Congrats, he will also send out Saarland in Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney. Saarland comes off a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap. In his previous start, he finished a fast-closing second, beaten a neck by Aldebaran, in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap.

"His last start was a funny race," McGaughey said. "It was a short field running over a sloppy track, and he laid up a little closer to the pace than he needed. The race before that, he got beat a neck in a Grade 1 by a horse who may be the best sprinter in the country right now."

Great Notion set for return

Trainer Darrin Miller felt if Great Notion was ever going to be successful in a route race, Keeneland was the place to try. So, instead of running in the Arkansas Derby last April in his own backyard, Miller shipped Great Notion to Lexington for the Grade 1 Blue Grass.

Less than a sixteenth of a mile into the Blue Grass, it became apparent Miller chose wrong. Heading into the first turn, Great Notion was forced to steady and bumped hard with the horse to his inside. Unable to make the lead, the speedy Great Notion eventually finished last, 51 1/4 lengths behind Peace Rules.

Great Notion came out of the race with myriad issues and needed a month off. He returned to training in June and will make his return to the races in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at six furlongs. Great Notion, a son of Elusive Quality, arrived in Saratoga on Wednesday.

Miller said Great Notion had some issues with his hind end and his feet coming out of the Blue Grass and was given 30 days off. Great Notion, who is stabled at Churchill Downs's Trackside training center, has worked four times since July 5, including a half-mile move in 48.40 seconds last Friday. Pat Day will ride Great Notion in the Amsterdam, the local prep for the Grade 1 King's Bishop on Aug. 23.

"We were always looking at the King's Bishop and we were hoping to get a race for him down here,'' Miller said Wednesday from Kentucky. "But we couldn't find one so now we'll see if it is worthwhile to be there.''

The Amsterdam, which will be overshadowed by Saturday's Grade 1 Whitney, is coming up a strong race. Among the horses scheduled to run are Posse, Valid Video, Trust N Luck, Zavata, Super Fuse, Scrimshaw, First Blush, Bishop Court Hill, and Halo Homewrecker.

Great Notion went 2 for 2 last fall in Kentucky and finished second, beaten a nose by Champali, in the Prevue Stakes on Jan. 4 at Turfway Park. He romped to a nine-length win in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on March 1 before finishing second to Crowned King in the Southwest at Oaklawn on March 22.

"I think he's a very good sprinter, most Elusive Quality's are,'' Miller said. "I think in time he'll be a versatile horse.''

Evening Attire possible for Whitney

With a weather forecast that now calls for rain on Saturday, trainer Pat Kelly said Evening Attire is "very slightly'' possible to run in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap.

Kelly said he would wait until entries were to be drawn on Thursday to make a final decision. Evening Attire, last year's Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, won a nine-furlong, off-the-turf allowance on opening day, covering nine furlongs in 1:50.16. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110.

Initially, Kelly said Evening Attire would be pointed to the $300,000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap on Aug. 16, a race he won last year. However, the possibility of a sloppy track could make Kelly alter course.

"The subject was broached early in the week, but we're not going to do anything till [Thursday],'' Kelly said Wednesday. "I lost my rider.''

Kelly was referring to Edgar Prado, who rode Evening Attire in the allowance race but is lined up to ride Proud Citizen in the Whitney.

Trainer Todd Pletcher on Wednesday also remained non-committal regarding the Whitney with Harlan's Holiday, but sounded as though he would prefer to wait until the Saratoga Cup.

Lake beats Spa duck

When Love Less won Monday's sixth race with Love Less, it broke an 0 for 50 Saratoga losing streak for trainer Scott Lake. Lake hadn't won here since Sept. 1, 2001, when Thunderello won a maiden race.

Lake lost with his last two starters in 2001, went 0 for 39 in 2002, and was 0 for 9 at this meet before Love Less won.

Reflecting back on last year at Saratoga, Lake said, "It was a horrible string of bad luck and what could go wrong did go wrong. I told my assistant if we don't win a race before the Vanderbilt I'm not going to run Shake You Down.''

Lake is pointing Shake You Down, who has developed into one of the fastest sprinters in the country since being claimed by Lake in March, to the Grade 2, $200,000 Vanderbilt Handicap here on Aug. 10. Shake You Down is coming off an 8 1/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 12. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 121 for that race.

Warhol injured in track accident

Warhol, a $4 million yearling purchase who was recently purchased privately by Bob Lewis and turned over to trainer

D. Wayne Lukas, was injured when he reared over while on the training track and will be out indefinitely.

Warhol, a 3-year-old half-brother to Tout Charmant, arrived on Saturday from England where he was previously trained by Aidan O'Brien for John Magnier and Michael Tabor. He had gone winless in three starts.

On Tuesday, his first day on the track, Warhol was spooked by something and flipped over on the training track. Lukas said the extent of the injuries were not yet known.

"I was sick,'' Lukas said. "It bothered me more than anything I've witnessed in a long time. We're trying to get to the bottom of it. The hips and the pelvic area are so hard to X-ray.''

Lukas said Warhol was confined to his stall.

- Sharp Impact, winner of the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Belmont in his first turf start, worked a half-mile on dirt Wednesday morning in 48.12 seconds. He is being pointed to Monday's National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes at nine furlongs on turf.

- additional reporting by David Grening