02/22/2007 12:00AM

English Channel sets course record

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - English Channel's twice-delayed 2007 debut proved more than worth the wait after the Eclipse Award finalist set a course record in an allowance race here Thursday.

Ridden by John Velazquez, English Channel settled just off the pace of Mending Fences. He collared the game but overmatched leader to win by 1 1/4 lengths. English Channel's final time of 1:44.51 eclipsed the 1 1/8-mile course record by 0.18 of a second, and came within 0.59 second of the world record, set by Kostroma at Santa Anita in 1991.

"It was probably a little more than I wanted him to do the first time back, but he did it so easily and in hand," said trainer Todd Pletcher. "Johnny said he never hit him. In fact, he didn't even sit down and ride him until the sixteenth pole. All in all I thought it was a very big effort."

Pletcher had planned to bring English Channel back in defense of his title in the Canadian Turf Handicap here on Feb. 3, but was forced to pass the race after the three-time Grade 1 winner lost training time due to an upper respiratory infection. The setback also kept English Channel out of his next potential objective, the Fair Grounds Breeders' Cup Handicap the following week.

Pletcher said that English Channel, who is owned by James Scatuorchio, will makes his next start in Dubai on March 31, probably in the Dubai Duty Free at 1 1/8 miles. Pletcher's other alternative is the 1 1/2-mile Dubai Sheema Classic.

"One thing we learned about him today is that he's much more settled and kinder to rate with some pace to run at going a mile and one-eighth," said Pletcher. "He also ran a huge race last year in the Woodford Reserve. I'll talk to Mr. Scatuorchio to make sure we're all on the same page, but based on those strong performances it's likely he'll run in the Duty Free."

Adore the Gold to Fountain of Youth

Count Adore the Gold in for next Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

Trainer Mike Gorham confirmed the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth would be next for Adore the Gold, a once-beaten son of Formal Gold, after the colt worked a somewhat unorthodox five furlongs in 1:01.36 here Thursday morning.

Adore the Gold prepared for his work by jogging figure-eights in the quarter-mile chute for about 15 minutes prior to the second renovation break. Then he returned to his barn adjacent to the chute, where he walked the shed while the surface was regroomed. He returned to the track at 9 a.m. and made his away around to the five-eighths pole, and came away in a virtual gallop, covering the opening eighth in 14.20 seconds and quarter in 27.16. He picked up the pace nicely thereafter, covering the final three-eighths in 34.20 while never put to pressure before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.21.

"I wanted to warm him up in the chute first to get him good and loose," Gorham explained. "He didn't get off the pole as I'd have liked - you've really got to keep after him to make him go - but he finished well and galloped out strong, which was the most important thing.

"Right now we're looking at the Fountain of Youth and not the Hutcheson. We want to see where we're at with him in the overall picture, and besides, going 7 1/2 furlongs in the Hutcheson could even be harder on him than a mile and one-eighth because it's more of an all-out sprint."

Gorham's biggest problem for the Fountain of Youth could be securing a rider. Cornelio Velasquez, who rode Adore the Gold to victory in the Swale Stakes on Feb. 3, is also the regular rider for Nobiz Like Shobiz, the likely Fountain of Youth favorite. Gorham's second choice is Edgar Prado, who rode Buffalo Man to victory earlier this month in the OBS Championship and may be leaning more in that direction.

As of Thursday, the field for the Fountain of Youth was expected to include Adore the Gold, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Buffalo Man, Drums of Thunder, Scat Daddy, Johannesburg Star, and Hal's My Hope. Delightful Kiss, a recent first-level allowance winner, and the California-based Stormello are also possible.

Soldier's Dancer leads turf stakes

Saturday's $100,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes should help sort out the local 3-year-old turf division. A well-matched field of 12 plus four also-eligibles entered the race, led by Calder-based Soldier's Dancer, the lone graded stakes winner in the lineup.

Soldier's Dancer captured the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby on New Year's Day, his second win in three starts since being switched to the grass by trainer Dave Vivian during the fall of his 2-year-old campaign.

Sedgefield, who finished a game second in the Tropical Park Derby after taking the lead between calls in late stretch, will get another shot at Soldier's Dancer on Saturday. Other key contenders include Pickapocket, winner of Belmont's Pilgrim Stakes but seventh in the Tropical Park Derby; trainer Todd Pletcher's uncoupled pair of Twilight Meteor and Pleasant Strike; Fernando Po; Passport; and Rutledge Cat.

Bright One to return in Richter Scale

Bright One, a Grade 3 winner around two turns at 3 but idle since a disappointing performance in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 25, will make his 2007 debut in the seven-furlong Richter Scale Handicap on March 3, according to trainer Dale Romans. Among those Bright One is expected to face is Sir Greeley.

Bright One has been burning up the training track at Palm Meadows this month, following up a five-furlong work in 59 and change last week with a 58.40 clocking on Wednesday.

"This last work was an interesting one, because he had a horse break off in front of him that he tried to run down, and we found out later it was Sir Greeley," said Romans. "Sort of an early matchup before the Richter Scale. I have no explanation what happened to Bright One in the Clark, so I just gave him some time and he's been training really well. It's a long year, so I decided to start him off in a sprint and see where we are with him."

Romans will be busy in the coming weeks. He also plans to start Spin Master in the Hutcheson on March 3 before returning to California the following week to run Joint Effort in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap.