09/08/2004 12:00AM

De Seroux steps onto a new stage

Benoit & Associates
Trainer Laura de Seroux sends Ballingary in the Man o' War.

ELMONT, N.Y. - When Ballingarry runs in Saturday's Grade 1 Man o' War, it will be the first time that trainer Laura de Seroux has saddled a horse at Belmont Park.

De Seroux, who trained Azeri during the mare's 2002 Horse of the Year campaign, has sent horses from her California training center at San Luis Rey Downs to run at Aqueduct and Saratoga. Last year, Ballingarry finished ninth in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

Ballingarry, a 5-year-old son of Sadler's Wells, finished third as the favorite in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap in his last start July 24. Twenty days earlier, he won the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup at Arlington for the second year in a row. He has finished no worse than fourth in five stakes starts this year.

De Seroux said it is gratifying that Ballingarry is around for a fall campaign this year. Last October, Ballingarry was on a van from Kentucky bound for Woodbine to run in the Canadian International when he kicked the wall of his box stall and injured his right hock.

"The hock blew up as a big as a head," de Seroux said. "The skin surrounding the hock became infected. I thought he might not run again. He had a shunt and was on antibiotics for awhile."

After the $500,000 Man o' War, de Seroux said she would like to make that trip to Canada again for this year's running of the International on Oct. 24.

"At age 5, I think he is coming to his best, and that's just not hype," said de Seroux, who trains Ballingarry for Sidney Port. "I'm not really thinking about [the Breeders' Cup], because he is more of a galloping horse, and those top horses from Europe have a great turn of foot."

Rene Douglas, who won back-to-back runnings of the Stars and Stripes aboard Ballingarry, has the mount.

The other expected runners, with known riders, are Balto Star (John Velazquez), Better Talk Now (Ramon Dominguez), Greek Sun (Cornelio Velasquez), Request for Parole, and Magistretti.

Weld sends Noahs Ark

If the rainy forecast for the next couple of days holds true, European invader Noahs Ark should feel right at home at Belmont.

Trained by Dermot Weld, who has had numerous successes with stakes horses he has shipped here from Ireland, Noahs Ark will run in Sunday's Grade 1 Garden City Breeders' Cup Handicap for 3-year-old fillies.

Noahs Ark arrived here Sunday and was accompanied by Tom Daly, one of Weld's traveling assistants.

In her last start, Noahs Ark beat older males in a handicap race at Leopardstown on Aug. 15. One of Noahs Ark's rivals in the Garden City is Necklace, who is trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien. Necklace ran a terrific race to finish third in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 14. Necklace returned to Ireland after the Beverly D. and was in quarantine at Aqueduct on Wednesday after her flight from Europe.

"I think we are a few lengths behind Necklace, but [Weld] picks out of his spots very good," Daly said. "Our filly has just started to come to herself and is pretty consistent."

Javier Castellano will ride Noahs Ark in the Garden City, a 1 1/8-mile inner turf race.

Colita goes for first stakes

On Wednesday, trainer Todd Pletcher said Colita will join stablemate Newfoundland in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward.

Colita, who will be seeking his first stakes win, is undefeated in three starts at Belmont. The other probables are Ghostzapper, Midway Road, Bowman's Band, Saint Liam, and possibly Presidentialaffair. Entries for Saturday's card will be drawn Thursday.

Strong Hope plans unclear

Plans are uncertain for Strong Hope, the Pletcher-trained horse who finished fourth as the favorite in last Saturday's Forego at Saratoga. It was Strong Hope's first start since finishing third in the Metropolitan Mile on May 31.

"So far he came out of the race fine," Pletcher said. "He had been training over a pretty glib track, and clearly the last four or five days of the meet the track became more cuppy and tiring. That probably hurt him a bit."

Pletcher said he was unsure whether Strong Hope ducked from Velazquez's whip or was startled by a bird in the stretch when he took an awkward step.

"That probably cost him third," Pletcher said.

Pletcher said Strong Hope and Speightstown, who is undefeated in four stakes this year, are under consideration for the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Oct. 2, but only one will run.

Conditions favor Stellar Jayne

In Saturday's Grade 1 Gazelle, Stellar Jayne returns to the distance and track where she won the Grade 1 Mother Goose in June.

Stellar Jayne, who finished second to Society Selection the 1 1/4-mile Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 21, has been back at Belmont for about 10 days with Peter Hutton, the New York assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Hutton said Stellar Jayne worked super for the 1 1/8-mile Gazelle on Monday, when she covered a half-mile in 47.21 seconds.

"She worked like a Grade 1 horse and wasn't life and death to do it," Hutton said. "Her energy level seems to be good. I think the mile and an eighth is better for her."

Magistretti to run in Man o' War

Magistretti, who finished third but was placed second in the Arlington Million, has been transferred to the barn of trainer Patrick Biancone and will make his first start for his new conditioner in Saturday's Grade 1 Man o' War.

Magistretti, a Kentucky-bred son of Diesis, rallied wide to finish third in the Arlington Million in his North American debut. He was moved up to second when Powerscourt was disqualified from first for interfering in the stretch and placed fourth.

Owner Michael Tabor then sent Magistretti, who was previously trained by Neville O'Callaghan, to Biancone at Saratoga. Last Saturday, Magistretti worked six furlongs in 1:13.12 over Saratoga's Oklahoma turf course.

"He came the day after the Arlington Million; he worked really well on Sunday," Biancone said Wednesday. "The horse seems to be in good health. We'll go for it. That was the plan when he stayed.'"

Edgar Prado, who rode Magistretti in the Arlington Million, has the call Saturday.

No turf racing Friday

With more than three inches of rain pelting the area Wednesday, and with more in the forecast for Thursday, the racing office did not take entries for turf racing Friday.

Among the turf races scheduled was the $60,000 Voodoo Dancer Stakes for fillies and mares who have not won an open stakes on turf in 2003-04. That race will be re-carded for Sunday, the same day as the Grade 1, $300,000 Garden City Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies on the grass.

Sabellina, a 3-year-old New York-bred filly who is 4 for 4 on turf, is eligible for both spots. Trainer Joe Aquilino said Sabellina, winner of the Yaddo Handicap in her last start, is more likely to run in the Voodoo Dancer.

Guaranteed pick fours continue

The guaranteed pick four pools of $400,000 that were in effect for most of the Saturday cards at Saratoga will be offered six times during the course of the Belmont fall meet.

NYRA will sponsor the guaranteed pick four pools this Saturday, plus Sept. 18, Oct. 9, and Oct. 23. NYRA will serve as the hub for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association pick fours Sept. 19 and Oct. 2.

- additional reporting by David Grening