08/02/2008 12:00AM

Danak takes second run at U.S. racing

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Despite getting beat less than two lengths in the 2007 Arlington Million and racing for the powerful team of Sheikh Hamdan al-Maktoum and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, Danak may be flying a bit under the radar when he makes his second U.S. appearance and Saratoga debut in Sunday's Grade 2 Fourstardave Stakes.

Danak began his career in his native Ireland with five straight victories, including a Group 3 win, before suffering his first defeat in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup during the spring of 2007. Those performances earned him a berth in the Arlington Million, where he finished sixth, only 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Jambalaya, despite a somewhat eventful trip.

Danak went to Dubai for the winter, where he disappointed in his only start before ultimately making his way back to the U.S. and into McLaughlin's barn.

"He's an awfully nice horse and training awfully well for this race," said McLaughlin. "He had a terrible trip in the Arlington Million and still got beat only a couple of lengths. His feet were bruised, which is why he ran so

poorly in Dubai, and it took a little time to get him right. He's a top miler to mile-and-one-eighth type horse and I'm really excited about finally getting him started this weekend."

McLaughlin said he had been hoping to bring Danak back in a slightly easier spot against allowance company on opening day, but the race did not fill.

"The original plan was to run him in an allowance race and then come back in the Bernard Baruch," McLaughlin said. "It didn't work out, but I really believe he's a Grade 1 or Grade 2 type horse and that he belongs in this field on Sunday just the same."

McLaughlin worked a couple of his stakes-caliber runners on Friday morning. Lucky Island breezed a half-mile in 48 seconds, and Brilliant Sun went five-eighths in 1:01. Lucky Island is scheduled to make his next start in the Grade 1 Forego, while Brilliant Sun is being pointed for an overnight stakes on Saturday.

Ginger Punch a go for Personal Ensign

While Bobby Frankel has not ruled out a run at the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic for defending champion Ginger Punch, he is not plotting her late summer/early fall campaign around that race.

Toward that end, Frankel said Friday that Ginger Punch would make her next start in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap here on Aug. 22. That race would come one month after her courageous victory in the Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap in which she carried 124 pounds and overcame traffic trouble.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to run this filly in the Personal Ensign," Frankel said as Ginger Punch galloped past him on the training track. "She came out of [the Go for Wand] good, she looks good, she's moving good. . . . You're going to pass a Grade 1 to wait for the Breeders' Cup over a track that you don't know who's going to run on it or the style of the track?"

Frankel was referring to the fact that the Breeders' Cup is going to be run over a renovated synthetic surface at Santa Anita.

Ventura to Woodbine Mile

Frankel said that Ventura, winner of the Grade 1 Just a Game at Belmont Park, would make her next start against the boys in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 7. Frankel said he picked that race because he feels the one-turn mile on turf is the best fit for his 4-year-old filly.

Among the horses pointing to that race is Kip Deville, the defending Breeders' Cup Mile winner who finished second to Shakespeare in the Woodbine Mile last year.

"Her numbers are just as good as Kip Deville's," Frankel said. "What's wrong with running fillies against colts?"

Ventura beat the boys in a listed stakes over the Polytrack in Kempton last year.

On Friday, Frankel worked Sugar Swirl four furlongs in 47.53 seconds over Saratoga's main track. It was the fastest of 46 works at the distance. Frankel was planning to point her to the Grade 1 Ballerina here on Aug. 24, but said after the work that Sugar Swirl is about to shed a frog, the shock-absorbing part of the bottom of her right front foot, and may not make the race.

Sugar Swirl, who had been trained by Brian Lynch, has won 4 of 5 starts this year, including three graded stakes at Gulfstream Park. Last month, she won the Scotzanna at Woodbine.

Mint Lane suffers condylar fracture

Dwyer Stakes winner Mint Lane came out of the Jim Dandy with a condylar fracture in his left hind leg and will be out the remainder of the year, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said.

Jerkens said Mint Lane was to ship to the Hogan Equine Clinic in Cream Ridge, N.J., where Dr. Patty Hogan was to operate on him. Jerkens said Mint Lane would be out of training for a minimum of four months, but is

likely to return to the races next year as a

4-year-old.

Mint Lane dueled with Belmont Stakes winner Da' Tara through strong early fractions in the Jim Dandy before fading to sixth in the field of seven. Prior to that, Mint Lane had won the Grade 2 Dwyer and the Postponed overnight stakes. He also finished second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan and Federico Tesio Stakes.

Jerkens said that the Grade 1-winning 3-year-old filly Zaftig has rejoined his stable after being sidelined due to a stress fracture in her left front foot. Jerkens said Zaftig, winner of the Acorn on Belmont Stakes Day, is just walking under tack but will return to the track shortly. Plans for her next start are undetermined.

Fast drill by Heir to the Stone

Trainer Rick Violette's talented 2-year-old Heir to the Stone worked a strong half-mile in 47.80 on Friday while getting in a little schooling in the process.

The New York-bred Heir to the Stone, an easy winner of his career debut at Belmont, broke off several lengths behind a pair of stablemates at the three-eighths pole under exercise rider Rodney Paine. Heir to the Stone

easily caught the two leaders at the eighth pole and finished full of run, completing his final furlong in just over 11 seconds around the clubhouse turn.

"I wanted to get a little dirt in his face," said Violette. "He's done it before, but I thought I'd just give him a little refresher course this morning."

Heir to the Stone will make his next start in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on Aug. 14.

* The stewards handed Julien Leparoux a seven-day careless riding suspension for allowing his tiring mount, Latest Scoop, to drift out in the stretch of Thursday's eighth race and in turn bother some other horses. Leparoux appealed the suspension.

* Trainer Gary Contessa has been named president of the Exceller Fund, a nonprofit organization that transitions former racehorses into new careers.

- additional reporting by David Grening