09/25/2002 11:00PM

Falcon Flight due for luck


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Falcon Flight was unlucky here last fall when he was forced to check in the stretch of the Canadian International.

He was unluckier last month, when he was all fired up with nowhere to go approaching the finish of the Arlington Million.

Now Falcon Flight's trainer, Don Burke, can only hope the trip falls his way in Sunday's Canadian International, over 1 1/2 miles on the E.P. Taylor turf course.

Falcon Flight began his career in France, where he was a Grade 2 winner at 3 in his first campaign and was purchased privately by Gary Tanaka. He won his North American debut for trainer Ben Cecil in Santa Anita's Grade 2 El Rincon the following year and on Sunday the 6-year-old Falcon Flight will be seeking his first Grade 1 victory.

The 36-year-old Burke, who took over as Falcon Flight's trainer in the winter of 2001, said the horse has had some physical problems. Burke had to stop on the horse following last year's International, and Falcon Flight didn't race again until July.

"I wanted to come back here, so I needed to make sure and get him sound," Burke said. "That was the key."

Burke's patience paid off as Falcon Flight, making his first start in almost 10 months, overcame severe traffic difficulties to capture the Grade 3 Arlington Handicap July 27.

"I had him fit enough to run and fit enough to win with a good trip," said Burke. "But with the trip he got he had no business winning that day. He was shut off the whole way; it was unbelievable."

The effort also did wonders for Falcon Flight's conditioning.

"He needed the race a little bit," Burke said. "Everything after that race came a lot easier to him."

Falcon Flight came out of the Arlington Handicap "better than he went into it," said Burke, who was confident the horse would run well in the Million.

"Unfortunately, we just didn't get any breaks there," he said.

Burke, along with many observers, thought Falcon Flight would have won the Arlington Million if he had been able to find clear sailing when he rallied up the inside under rider Rene Douglas.

"It's unfortunate, but that's the way it went, so you move on," said Burke.

In his last work, Falcon Flight breezed seven furlongs in 1:24.80 at Santa Anita last Saturday. He and Burke arrived at Woodbine in the wee hours Wednesday morning and Burke says the horse is in good shape.

Falcon Flight will have a new rider in Pat Valenzuela, who is enjoying a renaissance as California's leading jockey this year.

According to Burke, the horse will appreciate the longer distance of the International after competing over 1 1/4 miles in both the Arlington Handicap and Arlington Million.

"I think he's a better horse at a mile and a half," said Burke. "Those two races set him up really nicely to stretch out."

In last year's International, Falcon Flight ended up being placed in a dead heat for fourth after being moved up from a dead heat sixth-place finish because of a double disqualification. Burke is content to accentuate the positive from that race.

"We know he likes the turf course, first and foremost," he said. "Everyone is making a big deal about how much he likes the Arlington turf course.

"Well, I can tell you confidently he likes this turf course just as much. And, he's probably a little bit better horse than he was last year."

Doing it their way

Alasha and Fraulein, the English invaders for Sunday's Grade 1, $750,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes, have taken different approaches in their training regimens here.

While Alasha has been cantering over the turf course, which will be the venue of Sunday's 1 1/4-mile race for fillies and mares, Fraulein has been taking her morning exercise over the main track.

Peter Boothman, an assistant to Fraulein's trainer, Edward Dunlop, and the filly's exercise rider here, said the decision to train on dirt is based on a couple of factors.

"She's difficult to train," said Boothman, "and we don't want to be hammering her on firm turf.

"And, she's come here fit. Basically, we just have to make sure she's recovered from the trip and take her over there [for the race]."

Paolini, the German raider who finished second in last year's International, also has been training on the main track.

Bianca Sieling, an assistant to Paolini's trainer, Andreas Wohler, said the regimen is nothing new for the horse, who trains on dirt in his native land.

* Krz Ruckus, who will be looking for his third stakes win of the year here in Sunday's Highlander Handicap, blew out three furlongs in 34.80 seconds on the training track Thursday under regular rider Dino Luciani. The work was the best of eight at the distance. "It's probably a little faster than I'd like, but he did it easy," said trainer Mike DePaulo.