08/24/2008 11:00PM

Howard takes tough beat with class

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - For a man who had just suffered an excruciating beat 12 hours earlier, trainer Neil Howard was surprisingly calm and composed the morning after his Mambo in Seattle was beaten by the slimmest of margins by Colonel John in Saturday's Grade 1 Travers.

It was the second year in a row that Howard, owners William Farish and Lora Jean Kilroy, and jockey Robby Albarado were narrowly defeated in the Travers. A year earlier, they just missed upsetting Street Sense with Grasshopper.

"To be honest I really feel worse for the Farishes and Kilroys," said Howard. "I wanted it for them so bad. You don't get that many chances to win classic races like the Travers and now we've come so close two years in a row. But even though he lost, I feel very gratified and satisfied that we did a good job."

Howard said it's hard to compare this year's narrow defeat with the disappointment of Grasshopper's second- place finish last summer.

"The situations are different," said Howard. "Last year we were the underdog. This time I was so confident going in with Mambo in Seattle, and you know me, I don't get overconfident if I'm running a 6-5 shot in a maiden race. But this horse showed me so many of the signs you like to see around the barn coming into a race, and he illustrated what we believed with his performance. Colonel John ran great, though, and in the end you had two quality colts almost inseparable on the wire."

Howard said he had not even thought about what might lie ahead for Mambo in Seattle, although he did indicate the Breeders' Cup Classic was an obvious goal.

"We were a little emotional immediately after this race, so we haven't given his next start much thought, although we'll surely be open minded about our options," said Howard. "You're always concerned about how much a hard race like this will take out of a horse, and we'll probably have to wait a little while before we find out, although initially he looks good. Sometimes they won't even show it until they get to the quarter pole of their next start. That's where the bounce factor comes in."

Curlin breezes for Woodward

Curlin breezed four furlongs in 49.14 seconds over the Oklahoma training track on Monday in his final workout for Saturday's Grade 1 Woodward.

"He was really smooth, it was exactly what I wanted," said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, in the absence of trainer Steve Asmussen. "We're ready."

Blasi also said Pyro came out of his third-place finish under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan in Saturday's Travers in good shape.

"He had a little bit of a rough trip but not as rough as some of them," said Blasi. "Considering he broke from post 11, Shaun did a fantastic job getting him to the inside and putting him in position to have a chance to win."

Blasi said it was too early to make a decision on where Pyro would run next.

Macho Again okay after rough trip

Jim Dandy winner Macho Again had far and away the worst trip in the Travers, getting pinched and knocked around between horses while attempting to rally in early stretch.

Trainer Dallas Stewart said Macho Again was pretty sore walking around after the race but that he appears to have escaped the incident without any serious injuries.

"He was banged up pretty good," Stewart said Sunday morning. "There were five horses in front of him at that point in the race and he really got hammered. He hit a nerve on his back right ankle, stung himself pretty good, but fortunately all the X-rays were clean."

Although disappointed, Stewart took Macho Again's bad luck in the Travers in stride.

"That's racing," said Stewart. "It will take a few days before we really know what effect this will have on him, so we're not making any plans, although races like the Super Derby and Indiana Derby are certainly a couple of our options if he bounces back okay."

Indian Blessing nominated to Ruffian

Indian Blessing gave every indication she remains on top of her game after working five furlongs in 59.80 seconds over the main track on Sunday. The move was the fastest of 26 at the distance on that morning's tab and the second since Indian Blessing dominated the Grade 1 Test here earlier in the meet.

"Bob wanted to get a good five-eighths into her and have her gallop out strong, and she did it perfectly," said Tonya Terranova, who looks after Indian Blessing for trainer Bob Baffert when the Eclipse Award-winning filly is in New York. "She's really become push button and everything is real positive with her right now."

Terranova said Baffert had her nominate Indian Blessing to the Grade 1 Ruffian at Belmont Park on Sept. 6. although her status for the race remains uncertain.

Rice remains red-hot on turf

After sending out the first four finishers in a grass race here on Aug. 18, what would trainer Linda Rice do for an encore? It didn't take long to find out.

Rice recorded another milestone over the local turf course on Sunday when her Lady Rizzi covered 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:00.66 to set a Mellon course record. Her final time eclipsed the old mark of 1:01.11 established by Second in Command in the Troy Stakes two years earlier. Lady Rizzi led a one-two finish for Rice in the statebred allowance race that was completed by Myakka.

"It was unexpected but nice," Rice said while watching several of her horses work over the Oklahoma turf the following morning. "I actually had considered scratching Myakka because she had a cough a few days earlier. As for Lady Rizzi, well, she just keeps getting better with age."

Setting a course record, however, still doesn't compare with sending out all four finishers in the superfecta last week.

"I already had one track record up here," said Rice, referring to Fabulous Force's five-furlong main track standard of 56.60 set in August 1993. "Getting that superfecta is something that may never happen again."

Superfecta really didn't pay $1.5M

Tom Durkin had the crowd abuzz here Saturday after announcing the superfecta payoff in the sixth race as $1,523,188. That was the official figure put out by the track's mutual department based on a $2 wager.

In actuality, the entire superfecta pool was just $203,344 and there were no winning $2 tickets sold on the 14-13-8-3 combination. The only two tickets correctly selecting those numbers were 10-cent wagers, both of which were purchased off track, one at Yavapai Downs in Arizona and the second through the Kentucky wagering hub. Both winners received an actual payoff of $76,159 apiece for their dime investment.

The horse that keyed that huge superfecta payoff was Slambino, who rallied to an impressive victory at odds of 88-1 for trainer Frank Alexander.

"I always liked the horse but I was stunned a little bit at the way he won," said Alexander. "He displaced his palate in the previous race so I changed some equipment for this last start and told the jockey, from the outside post, to just take him back and make one run, and it worked out perfectly."

The way Slambino won, Alexander is now considering running him back in the $100,000 Allied Forces Stakes for 3-year-old on the turf at Belmont Park on Sept. 13. He also admitted to cashing a ticket on the race, although not the superfecta.

"I went to clean off my glasses leaving the paddock and found a ladybug had landed on them, which is supposed to be good luck," said Alexander. "So I bet the exacta and wound up hitting it."

The 14-13 exacta completed by Blazing Dynamo returned $2,565 for a $2 ticket.