07/24/2006 11:00PM

Lady of Venice switches to Diana

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Patrick Biancone has called an audible regarding two of his top female turf horses, opting to run Lady of Venice in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Diana Stakes at Saratoga while sending Gorella to the Grade 1 Beverly D. at Arlington on Aug. 12.

As a 3-year-old, Lady of Venice was eligible to run in Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Lake George Stakes here, where she would have been a prohibitive favorite to win her fifth consecutive race. Gorella, who won the Grade 2 Just a Game at Belmont in her last start, had been mentioned by the racing office as a definite starter for Saturday's Diana.

Biancone said several factors played into the decision to run Lady of Venice against the older mares in the Diana, not the least of which is her ability. Lady of Venice has won four straight, including the Appalachian at Keeneland and the Grade 3 Regret at Churchill in June.

"She's a very, very talented animal; she's a mere 3-year-old, but I believe when a Grade 1 comes you run your best horse,'' Biancone said. "That should answer your question.''

Biancone also mentioned that under the allowance conditions of both races, Lady of Venice would have had to carry 122 pounds in the Lake George. She will have to carry only 113 in the Diana.

On Monday, Lady of Venice worked four furlongs on the Oklahoma turf course in 46.65 seconds, the fastest of 19 works at the distance.

"That's normal for her,'' Biancone said.

Meanwhile, Gorella worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 on Tuesday over Turfway Park's all-weather track.

The 1 3/16 miles of the Beverly D. will be the farthest Gorella has run. Biancone doesn't see the distance as an issue.

"As long as she's covered up and others do the [pace] for her . . . I don't think the distance will be any problem,'' Biancone said.

Gorella finished third, beaten less than a length, against males in the Breeders' Cup Mile and finished fifth, beaten less than two lengths, against the boys in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

Though Lady of Venice will run in the Diana, Biancone will still be represented in Friday's Lake George with Pyramid of Love, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus who went 2 for 3 as a 2-year-old in Europe. Pyramid of Love worked four furlongs in 47.03 seconds Monday over the Oklahoma turf.

Sanders no stranger to Saratoga

Trainer Jamie Sanders may be one of the unfamiliar names in the program here this summer, but she is a hardly a newcomer to Saratoga.

In the 1990's, Sanders spent many summers exercising horses for trainer Nick Zito. She worked for Zito when the Hall of Fame trainer won the Kentucky Derby in 1991 with Strike the Gold and again in '94 with Go for Gin. She was the regular exercise rider of 1996 Preakness winner Louis Quatorze.

After working a few years as an exercise rider for Dallas Stewart, Sanders went out on her own last October with the backing of her fiance, Donnie Kelly, and longtime friend Greg Logsdon. Sanders, Kelly, and Logsdon share the ownership of the horses.

Sanders brought 10 2-year-olds to Saratoga, including Teuflesberg, who will run in Thursday's Sanford Stakes. Though Teuflesberg is winless in four starts, Sanders is extremely high on this son of Johannesburg who sold for a mere $9,000 as the last hip at last September's yearling sale.

In his last start, Teuflesberg stumbled at the start, prompting jockey Robby Albarado to lose his iron. It took Albarado more than a furlong to fix the iron. By then, his horse was running off and raced an opening quarter in 21.65 seconds. He led until midstretch before fading to fourth.

"Since the last race he really picked up his head. He's been training like a monster,'' Sanders said. "I used to gallop Louis Quatorze, and he reminds me so much of that horse when he was a 2-year-old. He's just getting better every race. I know he's a maiden, but I've been around enough good horses working for Nick Zito that I know what he is or could be.''

Sanders is only 1 for 38 this year, that win coming with Pro Pink, a 2-year-old daughter of Touch Gold who is being pointed to the Spinaway here on Sept. 3.

Among the maidens Sanders is looking forward to running here are Behrens Design, a son of Behrens, and Royal War Academy, a son of Royal Academy who will run on turf.

Commentator nominated to Whitney after all

After Commentator made a triumphant return to the races in a 6 1/2-furlong New York-bred stakes last month at Belmont Park, trainer Nick Zito said he wouldn't run the horse back in the Whitney, a race Commentator won last year.

When asked early this week about Commentator's plans, Zito said the horse is nominated to the Whitney.

"Never say never,'' Zito said.

Commentator, a New York-bred son of Distorted Humor, won the Mugatea Stakes on July 12, his first start since last September's Woodward, a race in which Commentator re-aggravated a shin injury. Following that race, Zito mentioned the Forego or the Woodward, both run on Sept. 2, as possible next targets.

Commentator will work over the weekend, after which Zito will sit down with owner Tracy Farmer and make a decision. The two are expected to run Sun King in the Whitney against Flower Alley and Invasor.

Funny Cide may run at the meet

Another popular New York-bred son of Distorted Humor, Funny Cide, could run at this meet, trainer Barclay Tagg said.

Tagg said Funny Cide will not ship to Chicago for Saturday's Washington Park Handicap at Arlington. Tagg said there may be an overnight stakes in the second half of the meet suitable for Funny Cide .

Tagg said he decided to skip the Washington Park Handicap because Funny Cide's blood is a little off and he also had some concerns about the track at Arlington, which has come under scrutiny following a plethora of breakdowns.

Funny Cide, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, won the Dominion Stakes at Woodbine in his last start.

Pletcher runners work at Belmont

Before driving up to Saratoga on Tuesday afternoon, trainer Todd Pletcher put some of his stakes stars through workouts in the morning at Belmont Park.

Sunriver, the third-place finisher in the Belmont Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:00.90 over the Belmont main track in preparation for Saturday's Jim Dandy Stakes.

"He's training very well,'' Pletcher said. "We went real easy for a couple of weeks after the Belmont. I like the way he's training.''

Oonagh Maccool and Spun Sugar both worked at Belmont as well in preparation for Sunday's Grade 1 Go for Wand. Oonagh Maccool, who had a three-race winning streak stopped when she was beaten a head by Happy Ticket in the Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs, went four furlongs in 46.80 seconds. Spun Sugar, who won the Apple Blossom but finished fourth in the Ogden Phipps last out, worked five furlongs in 1:00.08.

Pletcher is also considering running Pool Land in the Go for Wand. Pool Land is coming off victories in the Doubledogdare and the Grade 3 Baltimore Breeders' Cup Distaff.

Express Lane debuts Thursday

Fans who have no interest in the freebies at the meet no longer have to contend with the endless admission lines.

Thursday will mark the debut of the "Express Lane,'' for fans who just want to pay their admission without getting the voucher for the giveaway. The Express Lane will be located at the East Avenue admission gates.

Thursday, the New York Racing Association will be giving away Todd Pletcher bobblehead dolls. The remaining giveaways will take place on five of the six Sundays, excluding Aug. 27.