08/23/2007 12:00AM

Cosmonaut far from unbeatable

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Finding betting value in the Travers will be difficult. Not so in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap, where strong opinions on any of the 12 runners should be rewarded with a fair price.

Cosmonaut, coming off a win in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap, will likely be favored, but as the 122-pound highweight, with other speed in the race, and coming off a foot abscess that kept him out of the Arlington Million, he could be vulnerable.

Shakis, a 7-year-old son of Machiavellian, finished fourth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont on July 15. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin believes the 1 3/8 miles may have been too far for Shakis, who shortens up to 1 1/8 miles, the same distance over which he won at Belmont in May.

"We didn't fire as well as we can," McLaughlin said of the Bowling Green. "I think nine furlongs suit us a little better."

In between his allowance win and the Bowling Green, Shakis was beaten a head when third behind Better Talk Now and English Channel in the Grade 1 Manhattan. Shakis, who gets six pounds from Cosmonaut, will break from the rail under Alan Garcia.

Trainer Patrick Biancone said he wouldn't mind if Cosmonaut were not on the lead early. Cosmonaut won an allowance race at Keeneland from off the pace and was a troubled second behind Remarkable News in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico.

"He can sit or he can go and dictate the pace of the race," Biancone said.

Trainer Bill Mott sends out the uncoupled entry of Gun Salute and Silver Whistle. Gun Salute was a Grade 1 winner as a 3-year-old, but his 4-year-old season was cut short by illness and he has had a limited 5-year-old campaign due a splint bone injury. Most recently he ran third behind Shakespeare in a swiftly run classified allowance race on Aug. 2. He breaks from post 12 Saturday.

Silver Whistle has finished second in three graded stakes at Saratoga, beaten a combined two lengths. Kent Desormeaux rides from post 9.

Linda's Lad, a Group 1 winner in France at 2, makes his North American debut for trainer Eddie Kenneally.

"He's ready," Kenneally said. "Hopefully there'll be a little rain and the turf won't be so firm. I don't know how he's going to handle firm turf. Most [offspring of] Sadler's Wells tend to like a little give in the ground."

Big Prairie is 2 for 2 at Saratoga. Drum Major was second in the Fourstardave, and Ballast, an allowance winner here last year, was beaten a length by Fourstardave winner Silver Tree in a stakes at Delaware six weeks ago.