08/05/2001 12:00AM

Five Star Day takes Alfred G. Vanderbilt

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - What was supposed to be the coming out party for Bonapaw instead turned into the resurrection of Five Star Day.

Bouncing back from three dismal efforts dating back to a last-pace finish in last November's Breeders' Cup Sprint, Five Star Day led every step of the way to take Sunday's $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap by 1 1/2 lengths over Delaware Township. It was two lengths back to 7-5 favorite Bonapaw.

A multiple Grade 3 winner, Five Star Day captured his first Grade 2 before a Saratoga record crowd of 66,942. Of course, the number is inflated by thousands of spinners who purchased more than one admission on T-Shirt Day. The previous record was 66,194 on Aug. 15, 1999, another giveaway day.

Five Star Day, a 5-year-old son of Carson City, has had a history of gate trouble. Sunday, he broke cleanly under Garrett Gomez and immediately opened up a 1 1/2-length lead while running an opening quarter in 21.88 seconds. Just Call Me Carl came to his flank approaching the quarter pole, but Five Star ran away from him through the stretch and had more than enough to hold off Delaware Township, under Jerry Bailey.

Five Star Day covered six furlongs in 1:08.57, just .57 seconds off the track record set by Spanish Riddle in 1972. It was also a tick off the stakes record of 1:08.20 set by Prospect Bay in 1996. Five Star returned $18.40 fifth choice in the field of seven.

The race was reminiscent of the performance he put in last Oct. 14 when he won the Grade Phoenix Breeders' Cup Handicap at Keeneland. He ran six furlongs in 1:07.90 that day.

"Somebody was right there on my hip most of the way," Gomez said. "He drew within a half length of me, right on my boot, and my colt went ahead and relaxed just like he did at Keeneland. We turned for home, he accelerated and did what he was supposed to and was very impressive in doing so."

Trainer Beau Greely said he has done some extensive work with Five Star Day around the gate and credited the New York Racing Association's gate crew for working with him. Greely, who trains Five Star Day for Columbine Stable and Kitchwa Stables, said he is pointing the horse to the Breeders' Cup Sprint and may or may not have one prep in between. It won't be at Saratoga, though, as Greely plans to ship Five Star Day out of here on Aug. 10.

Bonapaw missed the break according to his connections and had to settle for third.

"That took him right out of his game," trainer Al Stall said. "Considering that, he didn't run badly at all."