08/26/2002 12:00AM

A gutsy showing in Travers


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The 3-year-old championship in the wake of significant races on both coasts?

"It remains on the table," said Bobby Frankel. "The Pacific Classic moved Came Home way up. You still have to respect War Emblem for what he did in the Triple Crown. As for Medaglia d'Oro, he ran another big race in the Travers. He could go to the head of the class, not only in the 3-year-old division but in the Horse of the Year competition as well if he goes on to beat older horses this fall. There is no point in speculating now."

Medaglia d'Oro ran so impressively in the Jim Dandy, winning by almost 14 lengths, that some wondered if he could reproduce that form a few weeks later. He gained many new admirers with his Travers performance, stalking the pacesetting Shah Jehan through a half-mile in 46.82 seconds and then taking command leaving the backstretch.

Once in front he hung on like a bulldog. Repent, making his first start since April 6, came on strongly to challenge and narrowed the gap to a half-length at the wire. Was he going to catch Medaglia d'Oro in another jump? That is a matter of conjecture. What is certain is that Medaglia d'Oro, an El Prado colt deftly ridden by Jerry Bailey, acquitted himself with distinction. His 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.53 on a sloppy track compares favorably with the times of seven of the past eight Travers.

The Travers, with showery, chilly weather limiting the crowd to 43,000, was essentially a two-horse race. Repent, the gallant runner-up, finished 7 1/2 lengths ahead of the third horse, Nothing Flat. The Travers earned a Breeders' Cup Classic berth for the first two, and it is possibel that neither will run again before the Oct. 26 meeting at Arlington Park.

There were other highlights on the outstanding Travers Day card, including the three-length victory by Edward P. Evans's homebred Gygistar in the $200,000 King's Bishop Stakes at seven furlongs.

Gygistar, a 3-year-old gelding by Prospector's Music, is enjoying an excellent campaign, with five victories in as many starts, at distances ranging from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. He was aided in the King's Bishop by a torrid early pace cut out by dueling leaders, who went a quarter-mile in 22.26 seconds, and a half-mile in 44.91. Gygistar, stalking, went to the front at the head of the stretch and won decisively.

"Our major goal of the year with him is the Breeders' Cup Sprint," said Gygistar's trainer, Mark Hennig. "We won't try to stretch him out this season. He will probably have one more race prior to the Breeders' Cup and we are thinking of the Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 21. We are also considering he Jerome Mile on Sept. 14. A longer race sometimes is helpful in preparing a horse for a sprint."

Transferred to the main track because of Saturday's rainy weather, the $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap at nine furlongs produced a deserving winner in Capsized, a

6-year-old horse by Summer Squall who has had foot problems throughout his career. Trainer Lisa Lewis has saddled him for several good performances this season, however, and he was at his sharpest in the Fourstardave.

Capsized stalked a realistic pace, went to the front leaving the stretch turn, and drew off to win with authority. Lewis plans to point him for the $350,000 Kelso Handicap, on the turf on Oct. 6. If he can hold his current form, he will be a genuine threat.