08/08/2008 11:00PM

Hostess targets boys in Sword Dancer

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Like everybody else up here, trainer James Bond hopes the rain has subsided for a while. Bond would like to run his 5-year-old mare Hostess against the boys in Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational, but only if the Saratoga turf course is firm.

"If the course is ready, she's ready," Bond said Saturday after Hostess worked five furlongs in 1:00.88 in company with Believeinmenow over the Oklahoma training track.

Hostess has won just 3 of 19 career starts, but she is 2 for 2 at 1 1/2 miles on turf, the conditions of the Sword Dancer. Three starts back, at Gulfstream Park, Hostess defeated Mauralakana in the Grade 3 Orchid Handicap at 1 1/2 miles. Since then, Hostess has finished third to Mauralakana in a pair of Grade 2 stakes at Belmont Park. Mauralakana won Saturday's Beverly D. at Arlington Park.

"A mile and a half, that's what she wants," Bond said. "Everything else is too short. We'll see what the weather does over the next five or six days. Soft turf is not her game. I wish we could get a firm turf."

The Sword Dancer will not be an easy spot as the field is expected to attract five Grade 1 winners, including Breeders' Cup Turf winners Better Talk Now and Red Rocks as well as defending Sword Dancer winner Grand Couturier, Manhattan winner Dancing Forever, and United Nations winner Presious Passion. Champs Elysses, a Grade 2 winner, is also considered definite, while Interpatation is possible.

"There's a lot of nice colts out there - it's a stretch - but we get some weight in there and she's just training fantastic," Bond said.

On Friday, Grand Couturier worked five furlongs in 1:00 over the Oklahoma turf, while Red Rocks, who beat Curlin in the Man o' War last month at Belmont, went the same distance in 1:01.88.

Bustin Stones training to Vosburgh

Bustin Stones, forced to scratch from the Alfred G. Vanderbilt on July 26 due to a bruised foot, returned to the track for the first time Saturday, jogging once around the Oklahoma training track.

Trainer Bruce Levine said he would let Bustin Stones jog for a week before galloping him. Provided there are no more setbacks, Levine said he would like to run Bustin Stones in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 27 as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Sprint, to be run over the synthetic surface at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Levine said there is a small chance he could opt to run in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita, also on Sept. 27.

"That might be kinder on his feet," Levine said of running Bustin Stones over a synthetic surface in the Ancient Title.

Levine said he wouldn't have time to get Bustin Stones ready for the Forego here on Aug. 30, a seven-furlong Grade 1 race that could draw Benny the Bull and Midnight Lute.

"Right now to go seven-eighths wouldn't make sense," Levine said.

Bustin Stones is undefeated in six starts, including a victory in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap on April 5, his last start.

Da' Tara on track for Travers

Trainer Nick Zito said Belmont Stakes winner Da' Tara is on schedule for a start in the $1 million Travers after the colt worked an easy half-mile in 50.66 seconds Friday morning over the Oklahoma training track. It was Da' Tara's first work since he finished last in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy here on July 27, a race in which he dueled for the early lead with Mint Lane.

"He looks super," Zito said. "He couldn't be doing any better."

Zito said that he could run another horse in the Travers as well, with the most likely candidates being Cool Coal Man or Amped. Cool Coal Man finished third to Big Brown in the Haskell, while Amped was third in the Henry Wilton, an overnight stakes run the race before the Jim Dandy.

"I'll probably run another one in there," Zito said. "Whichever one looks like he's training the best."

Zito said Coal Play, second in the Haskell, would not run in the Travers. The Grade 2 Jerome at Belmont on Oct. 5 could be Coal Play's next start. Truth Rules, forced to skip the Haskell due to a temperature, is likely headed to the Pennsylvania Derby, Zito said.

Workout accomplished

Trainer Rick Violette needed to get one more work into Heir to the Stone before Thursday's $150,000 Saratoga Special, and he was fortunate to get the breeze in Saturday morning, despite an incident on the track just moments before the work began.

Heir to the Stone went four furlongs in 50.04 seconds under exercise rider Rodney Paine, who had to gallop Heir to the Stone by a fallen horse at the start of the work.

Matty Mae, a 2-year-old maiden trained by Linda Rice, was pulling up from a workout and collapsed by the five-furlong pole, unseating jockey Oscar Gomez. The horse lay on the track for several minutes while Gomez lay flat on his back. Matty Mae eventually got to his feet and seemed to escape the incident unharmed. Gomez was taken off the track on a backboard and transported via ambulance to Saratoga Hospital complaining of rib pain.

Meanwhile, Heir to the Stone got his easy half-mile work in, which was key in order for him to make the Saratoga Special, Violette said.

"Rodney did the right thing," Violette said. "The ambulance wasn't out there yet. He knew how important it was. If we didn't get to breeze him and then we get showers today, we may not get to breeze him, then we don't run. Rodney was very responsible; he didn't take any unnecessary chances."

Heir to the Stone, a New York-bred son of Birdstone, won his debut against statebreds by 5 3/4 lengths on July 10. He ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.78 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

* Defending Eclipse Award champion older female Ginger Punch worked four furlongs in 50.04 seconds Saturday morning over the training track. She is pointing to the Grade 1 Personal Ensign here on Aug. 22.

* Wait a While, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2006, worked four furlongs in 50.22 seconds over the training track as she prepares for a start in the Ballston Spa here Aug. 21.