08/02/2005 11:00PM

Leave Me Alone gives Kruljac a Test contender


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Eric Kruljac visited Saratoga several years ago and watched a couple of races before heading home to California. The next time he is here, Kruljac will have a starter in Saturday's Grade 1 Test.

Kruljac will be represented by Leave Me Alone, the winner of the Grade 3 Azalea Breeders' Cup at Calder in her last start, in the $250,000 Test for 3-year-old fillies.

Kruljac, whose operation is based on the West Coast and in the Southwest, has been training for 15 years after quitting his job as a investigator for workers' compensation claims. He operates a 26-horse public stable, split between Santa Anita and Del Mar. This year, his starters have been winning at a solid 26 percent.

Kruljac picked Leave Me Alone out of a sale at Del Mar for $35,000 for owner Steven Mitchell when she was a yearling. Kruljac, 53, said he prefers to buy horses for his clients when they are yearlings, so he can be hands-on with their development from the start of their training.

"With yearlings you get a good idea what is there and you can mold them a little bit yourself," said Kruljac, who owned horses before he began training. "Leave Me Alone was a biomechanical model. She had perfect balance and was just a free-flowing and super-moving filly."

The seven-furlong Test, traditionally one of the most competitive races during the Saratoga meet, is shaping up to be a terrific race. Leave Me Alone, who won her first stakes in the restricted Melair at Hollywood Park in April and has won 4 of 6 starts this year, is expected to face Grade 1 winners Acey Deucey and Sense of Style. Others probable for the Test are Aspen Tree, Flying Glitter, Hide and Chic, In the Gold, Maddalena, and Nothing But Fun.

Bailey wants Day's record

With news spreading of jockey Pat Day's retirement, everywhere Jerry Bailey went Wednesday morning he was peppered with questions about when he plans to hang it up. Since last year, Bailey has hinted that every year could be his last.

But on Wednesday, Bailey gave a strong indication that he would return next year. Bailey says there are still things he wants to accomplish, including surpassing Day's all-time money earning record of $297,912,019. Through Wednesday, Bailey had earnings of $286,383,868.

"I'm not retiring until I say I am,'' Bailey said. "I've got nothing planned. I set a lot of things in motion for the future, but future doesn't mean it's going to be '05. There are a couple of things I'm looking at now to maybe try and achieve. To be the first guy to hit $300 million would be nice.''

Bailey said reaching 6,000 career wins is not necessarily one of his objectives, though he is within reach. When Bailey won Wednesday's third race, it was his 5,820th career victory.

Melhor Ainda will face older in Beverly D.

Bobby Frankel has enough confidence in Melhor Ainda to run the talented 3-year-old filly against older fillies and mares in the $750,000 Beverly D. Handicap at Arlington Park on Aug. 13.

It is rare for any 3-year-old filly to run in the Beverly D., especially one based in North America.

"People are scared to do it,'' Frankel said about running 3-year-olds against older horses in Grade 1 races at this time of year. "Look at Kitten's Joy last year, he ran faster in the Secretariat than they did in the Million. You get five pounds. I might as well go for the $750,000. What am I going to do, run for $100,000? She's faster than they are, why not go for the big money?"

Melhor Ainda won her first four starts before losing to the Japanese sensation Cesario in the Grade 1 American Oaks at Hollywood Park on July 3. Melhor Ainda owns stakes victories in the Miss Grillo, Appalachian, and Sands Point.

Wednesday, Melhor Ainda gave Frankel and jockey John Velazquez even more confidence by working a strong six furlongs over the turf course. Saratoga clockers credited her with a five-furlong move in 1:00.27 and timed her galloping out in 1:13.

Velazquez was aboard for the work, conducted over a hard Oklahoma training turf course.

"I let her do her own thing the first part, I did not let her know she was breezing,'' Velazquez said. "I got to the half-mile pole, I picked it up a little bit, was going a good pace, and by the three-eighths pole she was ready. At the quarter pole I tightened the bridle in her mouth, clucked to her a little bit, and she finished up really good and galloped out very good.''

One BC prep for Artie Schiller

Artie Schiller came out of his victory in Monday's Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap in good order, trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Wednesday. Jerkens said that Artie Schiller would likely have one more race prior to the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Jerkens will choose that prep from a trio of races - the Belmont Breeders' Cup on Sept. 11, the Atto Mile at Woodbine on Sept. 18, or the Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap on Oct. 2.

"He runs real good fresh,'' Jerkens said. "You want to go into the fall as fresh as you can.''

Meanwhile, Jerkens is hoping to develop another turf stakes winner. Reel Legend, a 3-year-old son of Catrail, drilled five furlongs in 59.51 seconds Tuesday over the Oklahoma training turf course. Reel Legend has finished second in all three of his turf starts, including a runner-up finish behind Woodlander in the Lexington Stakes last month.

"He worked good before his last race,'' Jerkens said. "He didn't work fast like that, but this turf's insanely fast. That was faster than I wanted. I hope he doesn't get too nervous.''

First application of new pick-six rule

A recently passed pick-six rule designed to protect the betting public came into play on Wednesday.

When midday thunderstorms forced the seventh race off the turf, pick-six betting had already closed. Under the new rule, every runner in that race was considered a winner, thus pick-six players who were alive going into the race remained alive.

The rule, passed last month by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, went into effect with the start of the Saratoga meet on July 27.

The race scratched down from a field of 10 to four and was won by Provincial, the favorite. That helped pick four players, who were put onto the post-time favorite because there is no pick-four rule on the books in New York. The rules governing the pick four are national rules.

- additional reporting by David Grening