09/16/2008 11:00PM

Elope up for challenge in stakes


ELMONT, N.Y. - The presence of champion Indian Blessing in Saturday's Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park probably scared a lot of horsemen from running in the race. Bruce Levine is not among them.

Though his filly, Elope, has only run twice in her life - and just once for him - Levine has embraced the challenge of taking on the four-time Grade 1 winner Indian Blessing in the $150,000 Gallant Bloom at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"I'm not afraid of her," Levine said. "She's a real nice filly, but she's 3. We'll find out on Saturday. I'll be there."

Elope, a 4-year-old daughter of Gone West, will be making her stakes debut in the Gallant Bloom, which is likely to draw a five-horse field. But in her two starts thus far, she has certainly looked stakes caliber. Last September, when in the barn of Eddie Kenneally, Elope won her debut by 2 1/2 lengths, running six furlongs in 1:09.81 over Turfway Park's Polytrack and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 89. She was sent to owner Peter Blum's farm shortly after the race, however, with an ankle issue.

"She had an ankle bothering her before the race," Blum said. "When I learned about it after the race, I sent her home."

Blum transferred the horse to Levine, with whom he's had a longstanding relationship. Levine said he knew Elope was a runner "the first time I breezed her."

Levine got Elope to the races on Aug. 3 at Saratoga when she won a nonwinners-of-two-lifetime-races allowance by 11 3/4 lengths. She ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.52 and earned a 100 Beyer.

"I didn't think she would run like that, but I told Ramon [Dominguez] this is a pretty special horse," Levine said.

Levine had considered running Elope in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 24, but changed his mind when California invaders Intangaroo and Mistical Plan showed up. Plan B became the Endine at Delaware Park, but Levine scratched Elope from the race when the track came up sloppy.

Levine said he would have considered last weekend's Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes, but the race was not graded.

While Elope has only had two races, Levine said she acts like a well-seasoned professional.

"This filly acts like she's had 20 races," Levine said. "Nothing bothers her. She's the most laid-back horse you'd want to be around."

In addition to Indian Blessing and Elope, the Gallant Bloom is expected to attract Porte Bonheur, Zada Belle, and possibly Silver Knockers and Thor's Daughter.

Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens said Wednesday that Any Limit would not make the Gallant Bloom. Instead, he hopes to get her to the $300,000 Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland on Oct. 4. Any Limit missed some training time as well as the Ballerina due to a hind ankle injury.

Red Rocks to BC Turf without prep

If Red Rocks is to make it to the $3 million Breeders' Cup Turf, he will do so without a prep race.

Red Rocks, winner of the 2004 BC Turf, defeated Curlin in the Man o' War at Belmont on July 12. He was entered in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga on Aug. 16, but had to scratch from that race due to filling in his left hind ankle.

Red Rocks has recently resumed training, and trainer Mark Hennig said he hopes to get a workout into him early next week. Hennig, who took over the training of Red Rocks from Brian Meehan following the Man o' War, is confident the horse could give a good showing in the Breeders' Cup without a prep.

"The horse runs better fresh anyway from everything I've heard," Hennig said.

Hennig said Collegiate, his promising 2-year-old filly, is being pointed to the Grade 1 Frizette here on Oct. 4. Collegiate, who won her debut impressively here in June, worked four furlongs in 47.16 seconds Sunday, equipped with blinkers for the first time.

"We put blinkers on her the other day and she was perfect," Hennig said.

Tagg stable busy Wednesday morning

Robin Smullen, assistant trainer to Barclay Tagg, had a busy Wednesday morning, working several horses for upcoming stakes engagements.

Tale of Ekati, the Wood Memorial winner, worked five furlongs in 1:00.72 over Belmont's main track and will make his next start in the Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Breeders' Cup Handicap going a mile here Oct. 5. Tale of Ekati is coming off a seventh-place finish in the Travers at 1 1/4 miles.

"Edgar [Prado] thinks he's a little bit better going a little bit shorter as opposed to a little bit longer, so we decided to shorten him up to a mile," Smullen said.

Conversely, Summer Patriot proved he is a little bit better going a little bit longer when he won the John's Call Stakes at 1 5/8 miles at Saratoga on Aug. 17. He worked five furlongs in 1:01.84 Wednesday in preparation for a start in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at 1 1/2 miles here Sept. 27.

"What surprises me about that horse is he has a very long stride and he still has a great turn of foot," Smullen said. "Usually, horses that have a really long stride like that don't have a turn of foot, but he's got a great turn of foot."

Hello Broadway, a half-brother to multiple Grade 1 winner Nobiz Like Shobiz, worked four furlongs in 51.46 seconds over the main track. It was his first move since he won his debut by a neck at Saratoga on Aug. 30. He ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.80 and earned a 88 Beyer. He is being pointed to the Grade 1 Champagne on Oct. 4.

"We didn't want to do anything too strenuous, it's his first work since he ran," Smullen said. "We can come back in five days. The track was a little cuppier earlier; I didn't like it at all before the break. Then they put water on it and it was really good just now."

Tall Poppi worked four furlongs in 49.46 seconds Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's $100,000 Bertram Bongard for New York-bred juveniles.

* Adding injury to insult, jockey Rudy Rodriguez was taken to North Shore University Hospital complaining of collarbone pain after his mount, Cape Cod Escape, broke down in her left front leg at the three-sixteenths pole of Wednesday's sixth race. Cape Cod Escape had to be euthanized.

Earlier in the day, Rodriguez was handed a seven-day suspension by the stewards for careless riding in Sunday's Ashley T. Cole Handicap. Rodriguez was aboard Key Event, who came in on Gimme Credit entering the far turn, forcing that one to steady. Key Event finished last in the race. Having appealed, Rodriguez was allowed to ride.