07/26/2004 11:00PM

Ghostzapper iffy for Whitney


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Bobby Frankel's plans to stretch out Ghostzapper around two turns in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap on Aug. 7 have hit a snag.

Ghostzapper has shed a frog - the protective cushion for the sole of the foot - on his left front foot and is unlikely to make the race. The Whitney would have been Ghostzapper's first start beyond seven furlongs. Ghostzapper most recently won the Grade 2 Tom Fool Handicap at seven furlongs, his first start of the year.

If Ghostzapper can't make the Whitney, and the track is dry, Frankel said he would run Peace Rules in the race. Peace Rules is coming off a hard-fought neck victory in the Grade 1 Suburban on July 3 at Belmont Park.

Ghostzapper's problem surfaced after he worked five furlongs in 59.94 seconds on Thursday at Belmont. Since the work, Ghostzapper has either walked or jogged. He did not train Tuesday due to the inclement weather in Saratoga.

Frankel was planning on putting a metal plate on Ghostzapper's foot in hopes of being able to train him a little more aggressively in the coming days. "Worse comes to worse I'll run him in the Vanderbilt," Frankel said, referring to the Grade 2, $200,000 sprint on Aug. 14.

Frankel miffed at 'Wand' weights

Frankel is incredulous over the weight assignments for Sunday's Grade 1, $250,000 Go for Wand Handicap and is now considering whether or not to run the race's defending champion, Sightseek.

Sightseek, who won last year's Go for Wand by 11 1/2 lengths, was assigned 122 pounds, two more than two-time defending champion older mare Azeri. The weight assignments, made by racing secretary Mike Lakow, represent a five-pound shift from last month's Ogden Phipps, in which Sightseek won while Azeri ran last, beaten 11 3/4 lengths. Azeri, who bled in the race, carried 123 pounds to Sightseek's 120.

Azeri has lost three straight races, including a 6 3/4-length loss when facing males in the Metropolitan Handicap.

"She runs one bad race and they make a five-pound switch?" Frankel said. "You can't call the Met a bad race. I might have got beat six lengths in that race too."

While Sightseek is likely to run in the Go for Wand, Frankel said she could wait for the Grade 1, $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap on April 27.

Sightseek and Azeri are two of five Grade 1 winners pointing to the Go for Wand. Storm Flag Flying (117 pounds), Mayo on the Side (115), and Passing Shot (115) are the others.

Azeri completed preparations for the Go for Wand on Tuesday by working four furlongs in 48.81 seconds over the Oklahoma training track. Azeri went out at 5:30 a.m. and worked over a fast track, beating the rain that would later turn it sloppy.

According to the clockers, Azeri got her last quarter in 23.73 seconds.

"I was real pleased," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "We were the first ones to step foot on it; she skipped over it well within herself."

Vance: La Reason deserves a shot

Trainer David Vance, who has a division of horses at Saratoga for the first time this year, hopes to set the tone for a good meet with La Reason when she runs in Sunday's Go for Wand.

La Reason, who won the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park by three lengths in her last start, is among eight horses Vance brought to Saratoga from Kentucky. La Reason's older half-sister, stakes winner Reason to Talk, is also in the barn and could possibly run in the $65,000 De La Rose Stakes on the turf on Aug. 11. My Trusty Cat is another horse that Vance will run in a stakes at the Saratoga meet. The winner of the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap at Arlington Park on June 19, My Trusty Cat will run in the Grade 2, $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap Aug. 6.

Vance, who has kept a division of horses at Churchill Downs to run at Ellis Park and Arlington Park, said he wanted to try something different this year and felt like he had the right stock to come to Saratoga.

"I looked at it as an opportunity to get out of town and for a change of pace," Vance said. "I have three decent fillies, a maiden, and four claimers. If these eight are not the right ones, then I can plan earlier to bring the right ones for next year."

Besides winning the Molly Pitcher at odds of nearly 23-1, La Reason won the ungraded Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn Park at 10-1 in April. With five Grade 1 winners in the Go for Wand, La Reason will be a longshot.

"[Odds] don't mean anything to me," Vance said. "Three-to-five shots get beat as much as horses who are a price. This is a very tough spot, but why shouldn't she run against Sightseek or Azeri?"

On Tuesday, La Reason worked five furlongs in 1:01.85 in the slop over the main track with the dogs up.

Mott aims to win another Baruch

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott turns 51 on Thursday. While Mott has won a race on his birthday six times since 1994 - twice there was no racing - his celebration may have to wait until Friday when he sends out Silver Tree in the Grade 2, $150,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap.

Silver Tree has been an enigma for Mott, who has won the Baruch four of the last six years. After winning the Virginia Derby at 1 1/4 miles as a 3-year-old, Silver Tree's last two wins have come at one mile. He came up empty in the Dixie Handicap at nine furlongs, and, in his last start, Silver Tree chased a hot pace while running third in the Grade 3 Poker Handicap at one mile. The Bernard Baruch is run at nine furlongs.

"I still don't get how that horse could run as good at a mile and a quarter as he did and now I can't get him over a mile," Mott said. "We're a little confused. There have been a couple of times when he's been rank."

Silver Tree may benefit from the fact that this year's Baruch is not coming up overly strong. Nothing to Lose, who finished third in the United Nations last out, will be the starting highweight at 117 pounds. Silver Tree was assigned 116.

Others expected to run include Megantic (116), Quest Star (114), Irish Colonial (113), Mr. Light (113), Union Place (113), and Bourbonnais (112).

Velazquez nearing 3,000th win

Saratoga will commemorate jockey John Velazquez's record-setting 61-win performance here last summer on Thursday by distributing bobblehead dolls with his likeness to all fans with each paid admission.

There may be another reason to celebrate. Velazquez entered the meet needing just three victories to reach the 3,000-win plateau. Velazquez is coming off a Belmont Park meeting in which he led all riders with 77 wins.

Film Maker out of Diana

Trainer Graham Motion said Film Maker, who won the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga last year, will skip Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Diana because of a recent bout of colic.

Motion had been considering either the Diana or the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington Park for Film Maker's next start.

"We were weighing our options, but [the colic] swayed us the other way," Motion said. Motion said that if Film Maker doesn't suffer any ill effects from the colic, she could run in the Beverly D. on Aug. 14, or the trainer may wait for the $100,000 Glens Falls at Saratoga on Sept. 5.

In her last start, Film Maker won the Grade 3 All Along Breeders' Cup at Colonial Downs on July 10.

Motion said Alternate, who won the Robert G. Dick Memorial Breeders' Cup Handicap for the second year in a row on July 17 at Delaware Park, is also a candidate for the Glens Falls, a race she finished third in last year. Motion said he probably wouldn't run both Film Maker and Alternate in the Grade 3 Glens Falls.

Motion won't have to wait until the end of the meet to run a horse in a stakes. He said he is considering starting Fall Fashion in Saturday's Grade 1 Test. Fall Fashion, who would be a longshot if she ran, won her only start at the Test's seven-furlong distance in the ungraded Charon Stakes at Gulfstream Park in April.

The Motion-trained Better Talk Now, second in the Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont on July 17, is being pointed to the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational on Aug. 14.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson