07/01/2007 11:00PM

Dry Martini looks to move up

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The retirement of Invasor and the disappointing performance by Corinthian in Saturday's Grade 1 Suburban Handicap left the East Coast handicap division thirsting for a leader.

Martini anyone?

Dry Martini, making his first start for trainer Barclay Tagg, won Saturday's Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows by 1 3/4 lengths, running 1o1/8 miles in 1:48.40 and earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 107. It was the 4-year-old gelding's third consecutive victory and sixth from 14 career starts.

Racing between horses near the back of the pack early, Dry Martini gradually advanced between horses to get into contention at the quarter pole. He hit the front inside the sixteenth pole and drew clear late.

Tagg took over the training of Dry Martini shortly after the gelding won the Grade 3 Memorial Day Handicap for trainer Harry Benson. The horse had trained phenomenally in New York before shipping out to Prairie Meadows for the Cornhusker.

"The jockey did exactly what I asked him to do, and the horse performed like I thought he would," Tagg said.

The win more than likely earned Dry Martini a shot against Grade 1 competition in either the Whitney Handicap on July 28 or the Woodward on Sept. 1. If Tagg doesn't like the timing of either race, there is always the Grade 2 Iselin Handicap on Aug. 18 at Monmouth Park, where this year's Breeders' Cup will be held on Oct. 27.

"We'll take a look at things, take a look at the numbers and stuff like that," Tagg said Monday morning. "I'd love to try him in a Grade 1, and this might be the time to do it."

The Whitney and Woodward are both run at 1 1/8 miles - as was the Cornhusker - but Tagg is of the belief that Dry Martini could handle 1 1/4 miles as well.

"I don't see how any distance would be out of the question for him because he's a come-behind-horse and he's so composed," Tagg said. "I wish I had him last year for the Belmont."

If Dry Martini runs in the Whitney, he would probably face Flashy Bull, who has won four consecutive races, including the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Others likely for the Whitney include Magna Graduate and Diamond Stripes, the second- and third-place finishers in the Stephen Foster, and Papi Chullo.

One horse not pointing to the Whitney is Suburban winner Political Force. While trainer Allen Jerkens reported that the colt came out of his win in good order, he does not want to run him back in four weeks. Jerkens said he would point to the Woodward or possibly the Iselin.

Jerkens said Political Force drifting out so dramatically in the stretch of the Suburban was a reaction from jockey Cornelio Velasquez hitting him left-handed. Political Force earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure in the Suburban.

Jimmy Jerkens said he couldn't find anything seriously wrong with Corinthian, who finished fifth in the Suburban as the favorite.

"He was a little crampy behind, but that's about it," Jerkens said.

Octave may go to Test

With the plethora of stakes-winning 3-year-old fillies in his barn, trainer Todd Pletcher may have to get creative in finding ways to keep them separated. That is why he is thinking of cutting Mother Goose winner Octave back in distance in the Grade 1 Test on Aug. 4 at Saratoga. The Test is run at seven furlongs.

Usually, the Mother Goose winner is pointed to distance races such as the Coaching Club American Oaks or Alabama, both run at 1 1/4 miles.

"It'd be good timing for her and she did win from off the pace up there last year," said Pletcher, referring to Octave's victory in the Gradeo2 Adirondack Stakes. "Hopefully, backing up might be good for her at this stage. The Test is such a prestigious race for fillies to win from a broodmare standpoint."

In 1998, Pletcher pulled off the Mother Goose-Test double with Jersey Girl. The only other filly to win both races was Go for Wand.

Pletcher is pointing Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches to the Coaching Club American Oaks on July 21 and Acorn winner Cotton Blossom to the Delaware Oaks on July 14.

On Sunday, Rags to Riches worked four furlongs in 48.92 seconds over Belmont's main track.

McLaughlin to start suspension

Kiaran McLaughlin, best known as the trainer of reigning Horse of the Year Invasor, will begin serving a seven-day suspension on Thursday after one of his horses tested positive for Banamine, an anti-inflammatory. McLaughlin also was fined $1,000.

The suspension was originally 15 days, but it was reduced to seven because McLaughlin waived his right of appeal. The suspension runs through July 11.

Colonial Note, who won the eighth race at Aqueduct - a second-level allowance race - on March 21, had the medication in his post-race sample. The horse was disqualified and unplaced in the order of finish.

"A barn mistake," said McLaughlin, who was in south Florida at the time.

McLaughlin's horses will run in the name of his assistant Arthur Magnuson.

Lear's Princess to Lake George

McLaughlin will have plenty to look forward to when he returns from suspension, including Lear's Princess, the 3-year-old filly who made it 3 for 3 with a last-to-first victory in Sunday's $67,100 Tweedside Stakes. She won by a half-length over Christie's Treasure.

McLaughlin said Lear's Princess, who earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for her victory, would be pointed to the Grade 3, $100,000 Lake George Stakes at Saratoga on July 27.

"It's going to be hard to be successful making that sweeping move every time, but she's doing it and looking good doing it for now," McLaughlin said. "She's a really nice filly."

Songster to skip Tom Fool

Godolphin Racing elected to enter Rondo in Wednesday's $250,000 Tom Fool Handicap rather than Songster because the latter will be kept at races run at six furlongs. Songster, who won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler on May 12, will be pointed to the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga on July 28.

Rondo is coming out of a second-level allowance win going 6 1/2 furlongs on June 13. This will be his first start in a stakes race and at seven furlongs.

"It's a tough spot for him," said Rick Mettee, who oversees Godolphin Racing's New York stable. "We're hoping at seven-eighths he can move up. I know he's got to run against good horses, but we just felt he was a little better right now at seven."