10/19/2003 11:00PM

To Frankel, title already in the bag


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Regardless of where Aldebaran finishes in the final start of his career Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, trainer Bobby Frankel figures the Eclipse Award is a foregone conclusion. "Win, lose, or draw, he should be sprinter of the year," Frankel said. "That's why I'm running in Grade 1's."

Aldebaran has won 5 of 7 this year, including three Grade 1's, but could be at a disadvantage Saturday at six furlongs. A closer, Aldebaran has never raced that short. "I'd rather it be seven furlongs, but I can't write the [race conditions]," Frankel said.

"I've seen horses come from behind [at Santa Anita]. There's going to be pace, and he's got a rider that's got all the confidence in the world in him."

Jerry Bailey has ridden Aldebaran his last six starts, and after he won the seven-furlong Forego, the distance subject was discussed. Bailey said to Frankel, "If you have him like you had him today, don't worry about it."

Aldebaran won the Forego off a layoff of nearly two months, and he enters the Sprint off a similar break. Frankel's second Sprint starter, 3-year-old Midas Eyes, has been off since June.

Midas Eyes won the Swale Stakes by more than nine lengths on March 15, won the Derby Trial, and missed by a nose June 7 in the Riva Ridge. A foot problem has prevented him from racing since. Frankel finally pinpointed the problem.

"We didn't know why he was pulling up bad, said Frankel. "I tried to go on with him, he'd be all right, and we found it under the shoe."

Midas Eyes had "separation" in the wall of a hind foot that Frankel said is "like your nail separating from your finger. We let it grow out, it's fine now."

Aldebaran and Midas Eyes worked Monday at Hollywood Park. Aldebaran went a half-mile in 47.60 seconds; Midas Eyes worked a half-mile from the gate, in company. Clockers him in 48.20 seconds, a full second slower than the 47.20 recorded by exercise rider Marco Ramirez.

The workouts will not make or break either horse. Aldebaran has been racing all year; Midas Eyes has a month-long work series. "He's got two three-quarters under him, and he fires every time," Frankel said. Bailey has been riding Midas Eyes; John Velazquez rides Saturday. "He's a good gate rider - we've been very lucky together," Frankel said. Velazquez and Frankel have combined to win eight of 12 since last fall.

* At Santa Anita on Monday, Shake You Down smoked a half-mile in a bullet 45.20 seconds under jockey Mike Luzzi, who will be riding his first Breeders' Cup. Trainer Scott Lake shipped Shake You Down to Santa Anita on Oct. 13, and believes arriving early gives him an edge. "I do, especially considering how cold it's been back there." The temperature in Arcadia has hovered in the upper 80's and as high as 90.

* Three Sprint contenders worked a half-mile Monday at Churchill Downs or the nearby Trackside training center - Cajun Beat (49.40 seconds), Great Notion (51.40), and Posse (49.60).

* Clock Stopper injured his right knee and will not run, leaving the prospective Sprint field at 13. They are: Aldebaran (Bailey), Bluesthestandard (Mike Smith), Cajun Beat (Cornelio Velazquez), Captain Squire (Alex Solis), Ethan Man (Rene Douglas), Great Notion (Tyler Baze), Midas Eyes (Velazquez), Posse (Pat Day), Private Horde (Jason Lumpkins), Shake You Down (Luzzi), Valid Video (Edgar Pardo), Yankee Gentleman (Pat Valenzuela), and Zavata (Gary Stevens).