08/22/2008 12:00AM

Distorted Reality faces familiar rival

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Thorn Song and Distorted Reality were separated by just a nose when they finished third and fourth in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap here three weeks ago.

Distorted Reality may offer a bit more value when the two head a 10-horse field in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.

Distorted Reality, trained by Todd Pletcher, received a ground-saving trip from Eibar Coa in the 1 1/16-mile Fourstardave, but the colt had to steady and lost a bit of ground at a key point in the race. Coa was able to get him off the inside and get him up for fourth, 1 1/4 lengths behind the winner, his stablemate Red Giant.

"He was trying to make a move inside, kind of follow Red Giant, but he got bottled up a little bit and finished up well after that," Pletcher said. "A mile and an eighth suits him a little better."

Thorn Song entered the Fourstardave off two sharp victories and was sitting second behind a runaway speed horse in that race. His trainer, Dale Romans, believes the horse hit a soft spot at the quarter pole and that affected his performance.

"Down the backside I thought he was going to win, at the quarter pole I thought he was going to be last, and I was very happy with the way he dug back in to hang on for third," Romans said. "We're not going to say soft turf was the problem because he's run well on it before, it just looked like he hit a spot there around the quarter pole where he couldn't accelerate when he needed to."

Without much speed signed up for this race, Thorn Song may be able to return to his front-running ways under Julien Leparoux from post 2. Romans also will send out the late-running Yate's Black Cat.

Shakis set a record for 1 1/8 miles on the outer turf course when he won this race last year. Shakis, now 8, has yet to hit the board in three starts, but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin likes the way he's training coming into this race, which will be run on the inner turf.

"It hasn't been a great year, he's gotten a little longer in the tooth, a little older, but he is training very well and he likes it here," McLaughlin said.

Since November 2006, Proudinsky had three wins, a second, and a third from five starts before the Manhattan Handicap. He had some foot issues entering that race and he finished 11th of 12. Trainer Bobby Frankel said he came out of that race with a quarter crack and an abscess, but his last two works over the Oklahoma training track have been good.

Drum Major finished third in this race last year, but has not run since then due to a suspensory injury. Trainer George Weaver is having an exceptional meet and has success bringing horses back off extended layoffs.

Completing the field are Operation Red Dawn and Sensational Humor, one-two in a June 5 allowance race at Belmont, Elusive Fort, and War Monger.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch