08/19/2003 11:00PM

Frankel set to bag another Grade 1


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Bobby Frankel has already won 18 Grade 1 stakes races this year, four shy of trainer D. Wayne Lukas's record 22 set in 1987. Frankel has a chance to equal or surpass that mark this weekend when he will have runners in five Grade 1 races from Saratoga to Del Mar.

Frankel figures to get his 19th Grade 1 victory on Friday when he sends out Wild Spirit in the $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga. Wild Spirit, coming off dominant wins in the Shuvee and Delaware handicaps, figures to be heavily favored against defending Personal Ensign winner Summer Colony, Miss Linda, Passing Shot, and Golden Sonata. Golden Sonata is expected to scratch out of a Thursday allowance race to go in the Personal Ensign, run at 1 1/4 miles.

Wild Spirit, a champion in Chile, is coming off a six-length victory over Take Charge Lady in the Delaware Handicap in an eye-catching performance that had many salivating over a possible Wild Spirit-Azeri matchup in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

After laying close up to a slow pace, Wild Spirit exploded in the stretch to win the Del 'Cap by six lengths over Take Charge Lady.

"One of the impressive things in Delaware is I tucked her in early - I knew they were going pretty slow - and as soon as I had a chance I got her in a position where she could attack at her will,'' said Wild Spirit's regular rider, Jerry Bailey. "She was pretty strong then. She was as strong at the top of the stretch. She'll turn off until you ask her; she'll be as relaxed as can be. I asked her at the five-eighths pole to get out and she jumped into it.''

Wild Spirit will carry top weight of 122 pounds, a concession of 2 to 10 pounds to her five rivals. There is a seven-pound weight shift between her and Summer Colony from the Delaware Handicap, when Summer Colony carried 122 and Wild Spirit carried 117.

Summer Colony, who is 3 for 5 at Saratoga, had her head turned when the starting gate opened and got off last in the Delaware Handicap. She finished sixth, beaten 16 lengths. Trainer Mark Hennig also didn't think Summer Colony handled the Delaware track. Summer Colony has not been able to match her quartet of triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures she strung together last year, but Hennig believes she's training well since returning to Saratoga. Edgar Prado rides from post 2.

"She's going to have to step it up to be competitive with Frankel's filly,'' Hennig said.