06/15/2006 12:00AM

Flower Alley to return in Salvator Mile


ELMONT, N.Y. - Flower Alley, the winner of last year's Jim Dandy and Travers, is expected to make his highly anticipated return to the races in the Grade 3, $150,000 Salvator Mile on June 24 at Monmouth Park, trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday.

Flower Alley has not run since finishing second to Saint Liam in last October's Breeders' Cup Classic. Pletcher said he is hoping to use the Salvator Mile, a two-turn race, as a prep for the $750,000 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on

Aug. 5. Pletcher is also planning to run Flower Alley in the Woodward on Sept. 2, also at Saratoga.

"He's getting ready to run," said Pletcher. "We need to get a start into him to set him up for the Whitney. Timing-wise, it's something that makes sense."

Flower Alley, who also won last year's Lane's End and finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby, resumed training during the winter at owner Eugene Melnyk's Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala, Fla. Flower Alley has breezed 13 times since March, including a six-furlong move in 1:12.04 at Belmont Park on Monday morning.

"I think he's had a couple of solid six-furlong works," Pletcher said. "I don't know that he'll be 100 percent cranked up, but he should be fit enough to run competitively in there. Hopefully, that will set him up for the two races at Saratoga. Obviously, we're getting excited about getting him back to Saratoga."

Last year, Flower Alley became just the sixth horse to win both the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga.

Bandini will go longer in Suburban

Pletcher also said that Bandini, fourth in the Metropolitan Handicap, would stretch out to 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1, $400,000 Suburban Handicap here July 1. As a 3-year-old, Bandini won the Grade 1 Blue Grass at 1 1/8 miles before finishing ninth in the Kentucky Derby, a race from which he emerged with ankle chips.

"I think probably a mile and an eighth would be his very best distance," Pletcher said. "He deserves another chance at a mile and a quarter."

Pletcher said he believed that being "stuck down on the inside" compromised Bandini's chances in the Met Mile.

Venetian Sunset euthanized

Venetian Sunset, who was developing into an intriguing 3-year-old prospect for Pletcher, had to be euthanized earlier this week after suffering a fractured cannon bone during a workout at Belmont.

Venetian Sunset, a son of Old Trieste who sold for $1.4 million as a yearling, had won 3 of 4 career starts. He won a first-level allowance race by 10 lengths before taking a second-level allowance race by 7 3/4-lengths at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day.

WinStar Farm owned Venetian Sunset.

Take D'Tour gives Muller a special win

Take D' Tour's victory in last month's Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap was special on

several levels for Paul Muller, the co-owner and breeder of Take D' Tour. Like many racing fans, Muller was introduced to the sport by his father, Robert, who was a big horseplayer in his day. Robert Muller died of a heart attack 30 years ago.

"My father was born and raised in New York," Muller said. "He was at the racetrack every day. I think he's still here."

Paul Muller grew up in Chicago and said that family picnics were "held on the grass at Arlington Park."

Muller owned the filly Cherry Flare, who is the dam of Take D' Tour. He said Take D' Tour is the seventh and final foal of Cherry Flare, who is pensioned. Only four of the other foals got to the races, he said, "but none like her. She's been a lot of fun."

Muller owns Take D' Tour with his wife, Alice.

Parisella makes two pricey claims

Trainer John Parisella and owner Saul Kupferberg spent $175,000 on two claims Wednesday.

First, they put up $100,000 to claim L'Oiseau d'Argent, a 7-year-old gelding who finished last in the seventh race. They came back 31 minutes later to claim Dashboard Drummer, a 5-year-old, for $75,000. Dashboard Drummer finished third.

Parisella said he has been frustrated in attempts to buy horses, saying that many people are overvaluing their stock.

"For a $75,000 horse, you got to pay $125,000," Parisella said. "For a $50,000 horse you got to pay $80,000."

Parisella said that Kupferberg offered him the opportunity to take that same money and buy two or three 2-year-olds.

"I told him I'd rather do this," said Parisella.

L'Oiseau d'Argent does his best running on a rock-hard turf course, the way Belmont's courses can become when it gets hot and there's no rain. Parisella said he likes that Dashboard Drummer has shown versatility, winning on both turf and dirt and in the slop. As a 2-year-old, Dashboard Drummer won the Sapling at Monmouth and finished third in the Champagne.

Destefano gets first winner since return

After a one-year hiatus, John DeStefano has returned to training. On Thursday, DeStefano returned to the winner's circle when Blushing Marian ($34.80) won the fifth race.

DeStefano, 51, said he has an eight-horse stable, training for many of the same owners he did when he left. At the time, he became racing manager for the Wachtel family and Preferred Pals Stable.

"To be honest I really missed it," DeStefano said. "It's almost a year to the day that I quit, and I feel more and more appreciative of training. At the end of the day, there's nothing else I'd rather do and nowhere else I'd rather be."

DeStefano said that horses he previously trained, such as Attila's Storm and Certifiably Crazy, will remain with Richard Schosberg, who took over their training from Schosberg.

DeStefano saddled his first winner in 1976 and trained graded-stakes winners Penny's Reshoot, Michelle Can Pass, and Smokin Mel.

Three finalists for Venezia Award

Calvin Borel, Mark Guidry, and Edgar Prado are the three finalists for the Mike Venezia Award, which honors jockeys "who exemplify extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship."

The award honors the memory of Mike Venezia, who was killed in a spill at Belmont Park on Oct. 13, 1988.

The winner will be determined by an online vote by fans, as well as by votes of fellow jockeys across the nation. The deadline to vote is June 28. Fans can cast their ballots at nyra.com.