06/17/2007 11:00PM

Frankel barn dormant no more

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Through the first half of the Belmont spring-summer meet, the Bobby Frankel stable was a virtual non-entity, having won just one race from nine starters.

But last weekend, Frankel became relevant again, running several horses that ran big races and bear watching the remainder of the season. In a span of three days, Frankel - whose barn is being overseen by assistant Scott Hansen - won two stakes races and ran second in two more.

His biggest win of the weekend was by Indian Flare, who showed some grit by fending off Oprah Winney to take the Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap. On Saturday, Ginger Punch fell a neck short of upsetting Take D' Tour in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap. On Friday, Sugar Swirl won the Alyssum, an overnight stakes that may lead to bigger and better things. Also, First Word finished second on Sunday in the Notoriety, the colt's turf debut.

Indian Flare, a half-sister to Gradeo1 winner Latent Heat, looked like she was going to give up the lead to Oprah Winney in the stretch of the Vagrancy. But under Javier Castellano, Indian Flare found some resolve and battled back for a half-length victory. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

"I thought Javier gave her a great ride," Hansen said on Monday morning. "He got her to the inside, saved ground, and cut the corner. She's a gutsy little filly. She's not big, but she's got a big heart."

Frankel said on Sunday that Indian Flare could be pointed to the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga on Aug. 26. Indian Flare finished fourth in that race last year.

Sugar Swirl, a daughter of Touch Gold, was sharp in winning the 6 1/2-furlong Alyssum by a neck over Veneti. Sugar Swirl dueled with favored Yachats through a half-mile in 44.83 seconds before putting that one away. She had just enough to hold off Veneti, who finished nearly eight lengths clear of the rest of the field.

Sugar Swirl was coming off a third in the 1 1/16-mile Yanks Music here May 23.

"We thought shortening her up would be the right thing to do," Hansen said. "She's a big Quarter Horse-looking filly. She ran well. She came out of it in good shape. We're kind of excited about her."

Plans for Sugar Swirl are not final but possibilities include the Grade 1, $500,000 Princess Rooney going six furlongs at Calder on July 7 or the Grade 2, $150,000 First Flight going seven furlongs here the following day.

Ginger Punch's loss to Take D' Tour in the Phipps was both rewarding and frustrating, according to Hansen.

"I went from thinking we had no shot at the quarter pole to thinking we're going to get there at the sixteenth pole," Hansen said. "I thought she had too much to do at the quarter pole, but then she came rolling."

Plans for Ginger Punch are unclear. Frankel is pointing Sugar Shake, owned by the same connections as Ginger Punch, to the Grade 1 Go for Wand at Saratoga.

Hansen hopes to keep things rolling for Frankel on Saturday when he saddles Barancella in the Grade 2, $250,000 New York Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Barancella is coming off a second-place finish in the Bewitch Stakes at Keeneland. Since she is not Breeders' Cup eligible, Barancella will run for only $150,000 on Saturday.

"She's doing unbelievable and she really needs to run," Hansen said.

First Defence, the talented 3-year-old colt who had been Frankel's only winner this meet, worked five furlongs in 59.49 seconds on Sunday. Hansen said Frankel is torn between running him in a second-level allowance race and trying a stakes race.

Masseuse to New York BC Stakes

The combination of a bad post draw, a cough, and a pending long trip combined to prompt trainer Jimmy Toner to run Masseuse in the New York BC Stakes.

Toner had Masseuse entered in last Saturday's All Along at Colonial Downs, but began to have second thoughts when the mare drew post 12. Also, Masseuse coughed a couple of times earlier in the week. Though Toner still could have run her, he did not like the idea of shipping to Virginia if everything wasn't perfect. So, he put the filly on antibiotics and opted to point to the New York. Masseuse is coming off a win in the Grade 3 Beaugay Handicap at Aqueduct on April 28.

"I said at that time the All Along or the New York, and, as it turned out, between the post position and the cough it sort of made my decision for me," Toner said.

Though he didn't work Masseuse on the turf on Sunday, he said the filly "hasn't missed a beat" leading up to the New York, which will be her first attempt at 1 1/4 miles.

The New York is coming up a solid race with Vacare, Jade Queen, La Dolce Vita, Makderah, Barancella, and Hostess all scheduled to run. Louve Des Reves is possible.

No Suburban for Papi Chullo

Papi Chullo, the impressive winner of the Birdstone Stakes on the Belmont undercard on June 9, will not run in the Grade 1 Suburban on June 30 due to a minor hoof injury.

Trainer Gary Contessa said Papi Chullo grabbed a quarter, or stepped on himself, in his right front hoof while winning the Birdstone. Contessa said the setback forced him to train Papi Chullo lightly, not the way he would prefer to go up against the defending Horse of the Year Invasor in the Suburban. Contessa said he would point Papi Chullo to the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on July 28.

"They rip the skin off the quarter and it stays tender for a couple of weeks," Contessa said. "I haven't missed any training, but I wouldn't set him down and breeze him. It alters my training schedule for the Suburban. He just needs light training until it heals."

Papi Chullo overcame a slow start to win the Birdstone by five lengths over Hesanoldsalt. Papi Chullo ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.33 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 109.

Woodlander, Silver Tree meet on Wednesday

Though it is not part of the pick six sequence, Wednesday's feature is a $58,000 money allowance race featuring graded stakes winners Woodlander and Silver Tree.

On paper, the 1 1/4-mile race seems void of speed, which would give Woodlander an edge because he won the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes in front-running fashion in 2005. Two starts back, he raced close to the pace wining the Grade 3 Fort Marcy by a neck.

Contessa, who trains Woodlander, said he was thinking of running Woodlander in the Sussex Stakes at Delaware this coming Saturday.

"But I went into this race hoping he could be on or close to the pace, and it was absolutely the pace scenario I was looking for," he said. "He doesn't have to go to the lead, but I certainly like him on the lead slowing things down as much as possible."

In his last start, Woodlander finished sixth in the Grade 2 Dixie Handicap at Pimlico on May 19. The horse setting the pace in that race broke down and Woodlander had to steady and alter course. While Contessa doesn't think that cost Woodlander the victory, he believes his horse may have been able to get third.

Woodlander's main competition Wednesday figures to come from Silver Tree, an earner of $1.2 million who scratched out of Sunday's Battlefield Stakes at Monmouth for this spot. Silver Tree was also in the Dixie and ran fourth, but his trainer, Bill Mott, believes a bumping incident at the start cost his horse position. Silver Tree is a multiple graded stakes winner. He won the 2003 Virginia Derby in gate-to-wire fashion.

Other contenders are Barastraight, who makes his U.S. debut after racing in France, and Trippi's Storm, who is 3 for 3 on turf.

* Sightseeing, the Peter Pan winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.75 on Monday as he continues preparations for a start in the $150,000 Dwyer Stakes here on July 4.