08/05/2009 11:00PM

Fabulous Strike gets his Spa shot

Barbara D. Livingston
Rachel Alexandra gallops Thursday with Dominic Terry riding her.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It has come one year later than planned, but Fabulous Strike is ready to make his Saratoga debut.

One year after being forced to scratch from the Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap because of a foot injury, Fabulous Strike is one of six talented sprinters entered in Sunday's $250,000 Vanderbilt at six furlongs. Fabulous Strike, the 123-pound highweight, drew the outside post.

Fabulous Strike has won 13 of 22 career starts, including a good-looking 1 1/2-length victory over defending Eclipse Award-winning sprinter Benny the Bull in the Grade 2 True North at Belmont Park on Belmont Stakes Day. Benny the Bull will be among his rivals again on Sunday.

Last year, trainer Todd Beattie shipped Fabulous Strike to Saratoga two weeks out from the Vanderbilt to get a workout into the gelding. But five days before the race, Fabulous Strike tore a chunk of his frog, the bottom part of his foot, and he was scratched.

"He ripped a chunk about the size of a half-dollar right out of the middle of his frog last year right down into the sensitive tissue," Beattie said. "It's a gray area whether you run or whether you don't. We thought we'd err on the side of safety and take him home."

This year, Beattie opted to have Fabulous Strike do all of his training at Penn National before shipping him here on Wednesday.

As usual, Fabulous Strike will have to deal with several speed types, including the Canadian shipper Fatal Bullet, Smile Sprint Handicap winner Eaton's Gift, and Go Go Shoot, who won the Mr. Prospector at Monmouth Park on July 3. Kodiak Kowboy, the Grade 1 Carter winner in April, and Benny the Bull figure to come flying late.

Game Face heads Honorable Miss

Game Face, fresh off becoming a Grade 1 winner in the Princess Rooney last month at Calder, heads a field of six older fillies and mares entered to run six furlongs in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Honorable Miss Stakes. This is the traditional prep for the Grade 1 Ballerina on Aug. 29.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he is running Game Face in the Honorable Miss instead of the seven-furlong Ballerina because he wants to keep the filly at six furlongs for the foreseeable future.

"She's slightly better at six furlongs," he said. "On paper the Ballerina is coming up a tougher race. She's already a Grade 1 winner now, and we can focus more now on what she specializes in."

Game Face, who has won 7 of 14 career starts, is the 122-pound highweight, and will spot five to eight pounds to her five rivals, who include Keep the Peace, who finished second to Game Face in the Princess Rooney; Porte Bonheur, winner of the Victory Ride Stakes here last summer; and P.S.U. Grad, Lady Chace, and All Giving.

Maram returning in Hettinger Stakes

Maram, winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, makes her long-awaited seasonal debut in Saturday's $70,000 John Hettinger Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at one mile on the turf.

Maram began her career at Saratoga last year, winning a $75,000 maiden claiming race before taking the Miss Grillo at Belmont by a neck and the Breeders' Cup by a nose at Santa Anita.

Chad Brown, trainer of Maram, said his filly needed time to "let her knees catch up" to the rest of her body. Brown called it bone remodeling and said the filly did not need surgery.

When Brown did get her going earlier this winter, Maram popped a splint bone and needed more time off.

"I'm excited to get her back. A mile is a good distance for her to get started," Brown said. "I definitely would have liked to have gotten her back earlier in the year, but you got to wait till the horses tell you they're ready. She's telling me she's ready to run."

A full field of was entered for the John Hettinger, including Kiawah Cat, runner-up in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth Park in her last start; Our Golden Dream, winner of a New York-bred stakes at Belmont; and recent allowance winners Striking Dancer, Mystic Miracle and Project Rose.

Rachel Alexandra returns to track

Superstar filly Rachel Alexandra galloped one mile over the Oklahoma training track Thursday morning, her first day back to the track since recording a powerful six-length victory over males in the $1.25 million Haskell at Monmouth Park.

"I loved how she went today," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "The morning was cool. The energy level was high for her and [Jim Dandy winner] Kensei. Everything felt good this morning."

Rachel Alexandra is likely to have her first work since the Haskell next Tuesday. The following week a more stringent work may help her connections decide where next Rachel Alexandra will ride. The $1 million Shadwell Travers on Aug. 29 and the $500,000 Woodward on Sept. 5 are among the top speculated spots. Asmussen said other races to which she will be nominated are the Alabama on Aug. 22, the Personal Ensign on Aug. 30, and the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 7.

Bribon entered in turf allowance

Trainer Robert Ribaudo is as good as his word. Following Bribon's victory in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap he said he would likely return the horse to the turf. On Sunday, Bribon is entered in a $62,000 allowance at one mile over the inner turf.

Ribaudo is trying to find out if Bribon can be as successful on the turf as he has been on dirt with the idea of running him in the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 20.