06/30/2004 11:00PM

Frankel's first was also his most indelible

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Bobby Frankel may not be able to recall every major race he has won, but he has vivid memories of his first, which came in the 1970 Suburban Handicap with longshot Barometer.

Frankel - who seeks his second Suburban win Saturday, with Peace Rules - was 28 then and had a barn mostly made up of claiming horses. He had claimed Barometer for $15,000 from MacKenzie Miller in 1969. After winning several higher-level claiming races with Barometer, Frankel took his shot in the Suburban.

Barometer, with Angel Cordero Jr. up, stalked the pace, took control turning for home, and drew off to win by 2 1/2 lengths, beating a group that included Never Bow, Dewan, and Hitchcock. At 15-1, Barometer was the second-longest shot in the eight-horse field and returned $32.40 to win.

Frankel was in Chicago the day of the Suburban, saddling Baitman in the Stars and Stripes Handicap at Arlington Park. Coincidentally, he happened to be sitting in the director's room with Miller, who was also running a horse in the Stars and Stripes.

"He said let's call up and see who won the stake in New York," Frankel recalled. "He gets Pat O'Brien on the phone," referring to the NYRA's director of horsemen's relations, "and he says, 'Hey mucksack, who won the stake?' "At that moment, Frankel said, Miller hands the phone to Frankel and says, "Here, he wants to talk to you."

"I was so excited," Frankel said, "but I didn't want to act like an idiot in front of Mack Miller."

Frankel then left the director's room and headed back to his barn to get Baitman ready for the Stars and Stripes. "You know that Toyota commercial where they're jumping up and down clicking heels," Frankel said. "That was me on the way back to the barn. I'm 28 years old, training for two years, and I win the Suburban."

Two weeks later Frankel ran Barometer in the Amory Haskell Handicap at Monmouth Park, where he finished 10th. A short time later, Barometer was claimed from Frankel for $50,000. The following July 4, Barometer ran for $5,000 at Charles Town and lost.

McLaughlin chooses Plan A for 'Fitz'

Though intrigued by the prospect of running Seattle Fitz in next weekend's Grade 1, $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Thursday he is 98-percent sure he will skip that race and stick with his original plan of pointing for the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 7.

Seattle Fitz is coming off stakes wins in the William Donald Schaefer Handicap on May 15 and the Brooklyn Handicap on June 12. McLaughlin was considering the Suburban, but said he felt it best to give Seattle Fitz more time. When it appeared the Hollywood Gold Cup was coming up light, McLaughlin seriously considered changing plans and shipping to California next week.

After discussing the situation with Terry Finley, the head of the West Point Stable syndicate, which owns Seattle Fitz, it was decided to stick with the original plan.

"It's hard to turn down $750,000, Grade 1 when you're going to be 8-5 or 2-1," McLaughlin said. "But he's really better with a little bit of time; we're planning for a fall campaign. He's coming off two very big races back to back, it's shipping, we wouldn't have [Richard] Migliore, although the replacements are Hall of Fame caliber, too."

Migliore, the regular rider of Seattle Fitz, is committed to ride Artie Schiller on July 10 in the Virginia Derby.

Two Saratoga stars for Frankel

Frankel's already lethal Belmont stable was bolstered even more this week with the arrivals of graded stakes winners Wild Spirit and Midas Eyes from Hollywood Park.

Both horses have been sidelined because of ankle problems, but both are back in training and will be pointed to starts at Saratoga.

Wild Spirit, who won the Ruffian, Delaware Handicap, and Shuvee last year, has not been out since finishing second (and placed third by the stewards) to Azeri in the Apple Blossom Handicap on April 3.

Frankel said Wild Spirit could begin breezing in two weeks and, if all goes well, could start next in the Personal Ensign Handicap on Aug. 27. Last year, Wild Spirit was beaten a nose by Passing Shot in the Personal Ensign.

Midas Eyes, who won the Swale and Derby Trial last year, has not been out since finishing fourth in the Strub Stakes on Feb. 7. Midas Eyes had been working steadily through the end of March before his ankles flared up.

Frankel said Midas Eyes could begin breezing very soon. Though many people view Midas Eyes as a one-turn horse, Frankel was encouraged enough by Midas Eyes's performance in the 10-furlong Strub to try him again around two turns.

"He only got beat a length and a quarter in the Strub going a mile and a quarter and had a terrible trip," Frankel said. "He was wide all the way."

Prado wins five on Thursday card

There might be a race for leading rider at this meet after all.

Edgar Prado rode five winners from six mounts on Thursday's card and now trails John Velazquez by only eight wins, 54-46, for leading rider honors. On June 17, Prado trailed Velazquez, 48-24.

Since June 18, Prado has ridden 22 winners from 55 mounts; Velazquez has ridden 6 winners from 57 mounts.

Thursday, Prado won the second aboard Lott ($3.60), the third with ($36.80), and the last three with Soaked ($50.50), Magical Illusion ($3), and Honorable Tam ($6.40). Prado's only loss came on Seeyouattheevent, who finished third in the sixth race.

Two of Thursday's winners came for trainer James Bond, for whom Prado had not been riding recently.

"I was very happy to be part of the team with Bond," Prado said. "I hadn't ridden for him in awhile. I'm glad I'm back with him."

Prado's chances to beat out Velazquez for top honors may be compromised by the fact he is scheduled to miss at least three of the last 18 days of the meet to ride out of town and to attend the ESPY Awards ceremony.

Lion Heart close to return

Lion Heart, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness Stakes, is gearing up for a summer return to action after bypassing the Belmont Stakes.

Immediately after the Preakness, Lion Heart joined the rest of trainer Patrick Biancone's stable at Saratoga. On Thursday morning, Lion Heart worked five furlongs in 1:02 over Saratoga's Oklahoma training track.

"He's coming to shape very well," Biancone said. "He had two weeks off after the Preakness. He just jogged in the paddock, got away from the track for 10 days. When he started back galloping, I've never seen a horse so happy to be galloping. He was bucking and playing. He's put a lot of muscle on him. He doesn't look as much like a baby as he did this spring."

Lion Heart was undefeated in three starts last year, when his victories included the Hollywood Futurity. He has lost all four of his starts this year, but was second in three stakes - the Derby, Blue Grass, and San Rafael.

Biancone said his main goal for Lion Heart this summer is the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Aug. 28. A prep for that race will come in either the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth, or the Jim Dandy at Saratoga, both of which are on Aug. 8.

"The goal in the spring was the Kentucky Derby. Now it is the Mid-summer Derby," Biancone said.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman