06/08/2004 12:00AM

Klesaris weighing stakes options


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Steve Klesaris has two handicap horses he believes are deserving of a graded stakes opportunity. He will spend a good part of this week trying to figure out where and when to give them that chance.

Both Angelic Aura and Private Lap are coming off wins for Klesaris. He has entered Private Lap in Saturday's $100,000 Brandywine Handicap at Delaware Park, where he figures to be first or second choice. But Klesaris is keeping an eye on Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park and the Grade 2, $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap, to be run on June 19 at Suffolk Downs.

On Tuesday, it sounded as though Angelic Aura would go in the Mass 'Cap while Private Lap could be scratched out of the Brandywine to run in either the Brooklyn or Mass 'Cap. As of Tuesday, the Brooklyn had only four confirmed runners: Congrats, Dynever, Seattle Fitz, and Newfoundland.

"Angelic Aura is being slated for the Mass 'Cap, but the one-turn Brooklyn is something we'll consider," Klesaris said. "Private Lap is a more effective two-turn horse, where Angelic Aura it wouldn't matter. If I did decide against the Delaware race, I might move them around."

Angelic Aura, a 4-year-old gelded son of Concerto, has won his last two starts, a starter handicap at Aqueduct and an optional claiming event here on May 13. Private Lap won the off-the-turf Eight Thirty Stakes at Delaware on May 31 after getting beaten by a nose by Max Forever in the Quick Card Stakes 23 days earlier. The Quick Card was Private Lap's first start since being pulled up in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap last November at Churchill Downs.

"Angelic Aura has really come to hand, really stepped up and continued to improve," Klesaris said. "Every time I think he's going to level off he just shows me some more. In his last race, he beat a good field that day and did it the right way."

Of Private Lap's front-running victory in the Eight Thirty, against two horses, Klesaris said, "It was a strong paid workout."

Klesaris, the second-leading trainer at Delaware Park behind Scott Lake, is also getting another older horse ready to return to the races. Happy Trails, who won last year's Jersey Derby and Hill Prince - both turf stakes that were rained off to the main track - is on the comeback trail following surgery to remove a knee chip. He was scheduled to have his second post-injury work back on Wednesday. Klesaris hopes to have him ready for the Saratoga meet.

Saarland may race on turf

Saarland, who finished third in last year's Brooklyn, won't be in this year's field, but he might show up in a grass race for the first time in his 20-race career. Shug McGaughey, Saarland's trainer, said he plans on working the horse on the grass at Belmont on Sunday. If Saarland works well, McGaughey said he might look for an allowance race on the turf for the 5-year-old's next start.

Other options mentioned by McGaughey for Saarland are the $500,000 Suburban Handicap at 1 1/4 miles at Belmont on July 3 or the $350,000 Washington Park Handicap, a 1 3/16-mile race at Arlington Park on July 31.

Saarland, a son of Unbridled, finished sixth in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile on May 31, his fourth consecutive loss since winning an allowance race at Belmont last October. He trained brilliantly before the Met Mile, and McGaughey said he was puzzled as to why the horse didn't have a strong closing kick.

"I don't why he wasn't finishing," McGaughey. "If I ran him on the grass, it would be in an allowance race first, because if he finished fifth or something in a stakes, we wouldn't know where we stood. The grass just might be his gig."

Astoria next for Limited Entry

Limited Entry, who ran an extremely game race to finish second in last Thursday's Flash Stakes at Belmont Park after a horrendous start, will run next in the $100,000-added Astoria Stakes at Belmont on June 27.

Limited Entry, the favorite, hesitated when she was loading into the starting gate for the Flash. Her rider, Pat Day, jumped off and allowed Limited Entry to enter with the assistance of the gate crew. That was only a minor incident compared with what happened when the gates opened and Limited Entry broke well behind the field in the five-furlong race. She made up much ground while racing wide to finish second to Chocolate Brown, who set an uncontested pace and won by 1 3/4 lengths.

"A half-second before the gate sprung open, she went up in the air," said Rusty Arnold, Limited Entry's trainer. "You can't lose that type of ground in a five-furlong race and win."

Arnold, who trains Limited Entry for Louise and G. Watts Humphrey Jr., said Limited Entry acted like a perfect lady when she won her career debut at Keeneland by 3 1/4 lengths on April 23.

"The second time out, you never know," Arnold said. "She was so professional in her first start and didn't do anything. Sometimes in their second starts, they outsmart you. We'll do some work with her at the gate. She has a good mind and should get over this quick."

Injury ends Vanguardia's racing days

Vanguardia, who ran a big race to finish second to Intercontinental in Saturday's Grade 2 Just a Game Breeders' Cup, has been retired with a suspensory injury and will be bred to A.P. Indy.

Vanguardia, who was 25-1 in the Just a Game, tore the inside branch of her suspensory in her right foreleg. Vanguardia's trainer, Angel Penna Jr., said he believes the injury occurred when the 6-year-old banged her ankle during the running of the race. Penna detected some inflammation in the leg on Monday, and a scan later revealed the full extent of the injury.

Penna said if Vanguardia, who is owned by Earle Mack, fails to get in foal within the next two weeks - basically the end of the breeding season - the breeding plans will be put on hold until next year.

Vanguardia, a daughter of Roy, was bred and raced in Argentina, where she was a group winner. She won her first start in this country in February at Gulfstream Park in an allowance race. She also finished fourth in the Grade 3 Jenny Wiley at Keeneland in April.

Vanguardia retires with a record of 4-3-0 in 10 starts and earnings of $90,829.

* Trainer Allen Jerkens said Bowman's Band, runner-up in the Metropolitan Handicap and third in the Pimlico Special, is being considered for the Massachusetts Handicap. Jerkens said it is unlikely he would wheel him back in Saturday's Brooklyn, even with the short field.

* Daydreaming, a nine-length allowance winner last out and a candidate for the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 26, worked five furlongs in 59.98 seconds Tuesday morning over Belmont's main track.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson