07/26/2004 11:00PM

Consolidator a threat

Flamenco, with exercise rider Carl J. O'Callaghan on Tuesday, is unbeaten in two starts.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer D. Wayne Lukas didn't enter the maiden in last month's Grade 3 Kentucky Breeders' Cup just to help Churchill Downs fill the race.

Lukas felt Consolidator had a legitimate chance to upset the 1-10 favorite, , and he nearly did, falling a neck short in the four-horse field. Consolidator, a $1.25 million yearling purchase, gets another crack at Lunarpal on Thursday when the two head an 11-horse field in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga.

Lukas, a five-time winner of the Sanford, believes that if jockey Rafael Bejarano had not been so indecisive in his ride, Consolidator could have beaten Lunarpal. "If Bejarano doesn't make the decision to go inside-outside-inside, we might have," Lukas said. "He was closing like a freight train up the rail."

Consolidator came out of that race to win a maiden race by three lengths, covering six furlongs in 1:10.13. Pat Day, who has won this race three times for Lukas, picks up the mount. Consolidator gets Lasix for the first time and breaks from post 9.

Lunarpal came out of the Kentucky Breeders' Cup to win the Grade 3 Bashford Manor by a neck, his fourth victory in as many starts. Lunarpal swept the trio of stakes for juveniles at Churchill Downs, making him just the second horse to accomplish that feat. The first, Favorite Trick, skipped the Sanford, but won the Saratoga Special and Hopeful here en route to earning Horse of the Year honors.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said he would have skipped the Sanford had the New York Racing Association not eliminated the Saratoga Special, usually run in the middle of this meet. Asmussen has some concern running Lunarpal back in just 24 days, but overall he likes his position.

"I'm pleased with how he looks,'' Asmussen said. "He was a horse that I was concerned about [conditioning] before he ever ran. Will he retire undefeated? I doubt it. Will this be the time they beat him? It is Saratoga, but I'm not looking to trade with anybody else."

Lunarpal breaks from post 2 under Shane Sellers.

The Sanford is far from a two-horse race. Flamenco, trained by Todd Pletcher, is 2 for 2, including a stakes victory at Woodbine. Departing Now bled when fourth in the Flash at Belmont, but, with Lasix added, won a Prairie Meadows stakes race by 8 1/4 lengths. Afleet Alex has won his first two starts at Delaware Park by a combined 23 1/4 lengths.

Gold Joy and Winning Expression ran one-two in the Tremont at muddy Belmont. Smokescreen, Fire Path, and Maximus C complete the field.