10/01/2003 11:00PM

Fragoso gets shot at Grade 1 glory

Email

ELMONT, N.Y. - It isn't often that an apprentice rider gets a chance to ride in a Grade 1 race, but Pablo Fragoso will have that opportunity Saturday when he rides Summer Colony in the $750,000 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park.

Fragoso is no stranger to Summer Colony, as he got on her many mornings when he worked as an exercise rider for trainer Mark Hennig. Fragoso, who began riding races this spring, is still the regular work rider for Summer Colony.

With several jockeys out of town Saturday, there is a shortage of top journeymen at Belmont on Saturday. Hennig said owner Ed Evans suggested Fragoso because of his familiarity with the 5-year-old mare.

"He's galloped her for years," Hennig said. "No one's more confident in how she's doing today. Mr. Evans is the one who mentioned it. I said, 'Why not?' We don't get the five pounds, but just from the standpoint that she's been a little difficult to ride, he would know to leave her alone."

While she was among the tops of her generation last year, Summer Colony has not run nearly as well this year. She enters the Beldame off disappointing efforts in the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign Handicap. Fragoso said he has been pleased with the way Summer Colony has trained up to this race, noting a Sunday workout in a bullet 59 seconds over the training track.

"She's done everything right," Fragoso said. "I'm very happy Mark has given me the chance to ride her."

Fragoso, 21, has developed into the top apprentice rider on the New York circuit. His victory aboard Shhh Please in Thursday's sixth race was his 70th win of the year. Fragoso rode seven winners at Saratoga, traditionally a meet where apprentice riders struggle, and has come back with 15 winners thus far at this meet, tied for sixth in the standings.

Hennig knew Fragoso had the talent to be a good rider, but he wasn't sure if he had the mental wherewithal to get it done.

"He's such a nice person I wondered if he would be able to summon that competitive side. I think he has," Hennig said. "He's doing so much better now than he was in the spring. He's really learning a lot, which I think is great. He had a little bit of up-and-down action and he's really finishing now.

"He knows he's got room for improvement, but I think he's exhibited a great sense of patience," Hennig continued. "He's just got a very veteran style of waiting, not getting in a rush with horses. His timing seems to be really on."

Voodoo Dancer going straight to BC

Voodoo Dancer, who has not raced since winning the Grade 1 Diana Handicap on July 26, will forgo this weekend's WinStar Galaxy and train up to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, trainer Christophe Clement said.

"She's not yet back to herself, and she's too good a filly take a chance," Clement said. "I'm comfortable training her to the race. She's very aggressive in her training. If she runs, she will be ready."

After winning the Diana, Voodoo Dancer was diagnosed with a sinus infection and was shipped to the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington, Ky., for treatment. Voodoo Dancer missed about four days of training before returning to Clement last weekend.

Voodoo Dancer is 2 for 3 this year with wins in the Beverly Hills Handicap and Diana. She finished third in the Beaugay in May.

Congrats pointing for Discovery

After winning Thursday's eighth race over older horses, Congrats will be pointed to the $100,000 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct on Oct. 29.

The third-level allowance race was Congrats's first start since he finished fifth in the Travers. Racing without the blinkers he wore in the Travers, Congrats, the 4-5 favorite, was in front after a quarter-mile in the 1 1/8-mile race. Thunder Blitz charged to the lead down the backstretch and led the five-horse field into the stretch. When Thunder Blitz went wide, Congrats was guided to the rail by Edgar Prado and was able to shake free from Thunder Blitz with a sixteenth remaining.

Congrats was a 1 3/4-length winner over Thunder Blitz., ($3.90) covering the distance in 1:49.59 over a fast track.

While the horses were in the paddock before the race, the stewards scratched It's So Simple because he wasn't wearing the bar shoe that he had worn in his last start. The removal of the bar shoe wasn't announced to the public, which necessitated the scratch.

"When the one horse scratched, I wasn't surprised we were on the lead," said Shug McGaughey, Congrats's trainer. "He got a little tired and was blowing at bit, but I'm very pleased with [beating] older horses and all."

More to come for Harmony Lodge

Grade 1 winner Harmony Lodge will be the 117-pound starting highweight in Sunday's $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap. Shine Again, who was assigned high weight of 119 pounds, will run next in the Grade 2 First Flight Handicap on Oct. 25.

Harmony Lodge, a 5-year-old daughter of Hennessy, earned her first Grade 1 win in the Aug. 24 Ballerina at Saratoga.

Some horses would be heading off to the breeding shed after getting that all-important Grade 1 victory, but not Harmony Lodge. Todd Pletcher, Harmony Lodge's trainer, said the mare, who makes her 18th start on Sunday, would race next year for her owners, Eugene and Laura Melnyk.

"She's certainly earned a spot in the broodmare band, but she's been pretty lightly raced," Pletcher said. "We're going to give her freshening after this race and point her to the three sprint races at Gulfstream Park."

Those races are the First Lady and Shirley Jones, Grade 3's that were won by Harmony Lodge this year, and the Hurricane Bertie, in which she finished second to Gold Mover.

Richard Migliore has the mount on Gold Mover in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom. A small field is expected for the 6 1/2-furlong race. The other likely starters, with weights, are House Party (116); Alchemilla (111); and Belle Artiste (111). A couple of others were on the fence, the racing office said.

House Party worked five furlongs in a bullet 58.46 seconds, handily, over Belmont's main track on Thursday. It was the fastest of 21 works at the distance.

Arroyo hopes to be back in two weeks

Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. was back in the saddle Wednesday morning for the first time since he injured his neck and back in a spill at Belmont on June 15.

After galloping his first two horses, for trainer Greg Martin, Arroyo said he expects he will be riding races within the next two weeks.

"I feel good. I missed it," Arroyo said of riding. "I've been going to physical therapy and doing a lot of running. My weight is good. I got on a scale three times this summer, expecting it to go way up there, and it didn't."

In the spill, Arroyo was unseated after the wire and suffered a small fracture in his lower neck and two small fractures in the middle of his back.

Arroyo has been on the sidelines for a good portion of this year. In addition to his injury, he spent 39 days in a Long Island correctional facility during the winter after being convicted of second-degree assault for a fight at a pool hall in June 2001.

* When Redskin Warrior ($12.80) won Thursday's third race, it broke an 0-for-65 skid in New York for trainer Jennifer Pedersen and her primary owner, Paraneck Stable. Paraneck Stable was the leading owner of the inner-track meet.

* Jockey Luis Chavez was suspended seven days for a careless-riding incident in Wednesday's first race. The suspension begins Monday.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson