07/29/2001 11:00PM

Lido Palace took a big step ahead

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Do you write it off to horses for courses or the difference in weight?

They are the obvious answers for Saturday's upset in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap, won by John Amerman's Chilean import, Lido Palace. Smartly ridden by Jerry Bailey, Lido Palace came off the pace to score by two decisive lengths from Albert the Great, who was favored at 4-5.

Albert the Great is 6 for 7 at Belmont Park and 0 for 3 at Saratoga. There is no question he has a preference. In addition, he was carrying topweight of 124 pounds and conceding nine pounds to Lido Palace, a substantial edge. But the facts and figures were well known in advance by a sophisticated crowd of 38,091, and they still opted for Albert.

We feel he didn't let them down. His performance was a good one from start to finish but it cost him something to sprint out of the gate and fight for a position. When Lido Palace came to him in the stretch, the favorite was light on fuel.

There is another aspect to consider, and that is the distinct possibility that Lido Palace improved from his last start in Belmont's Suburban, when he finished second to Albert the Great by about the same margin he had in the Whitney.

Trainer Bobby Frankel noted that horses imported from South America need considerable time to become acclimated. Frankel added that the Suburban was a big help in tightening Lido Palace and enabling the 4-year-old colt to be 100 percent fit.

Frankel, a Hall of Fame horseman, has had a good opinion of Lido Palace since his arrival from Chile. He plans a limited campaign at Belmont this fall, for he wants a fresh horse for the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 27, when racing's big guns, including Tiznow, Captain Steve, Galileo, and Point Given gather for what may be a memorable confrontation.

Victory Ride rewards in Test

Victory Ride was upset in the Acorn Mile but was established a solid 7-5 favorite in the $250,000 Test Stakes for 3-year-old fillies that was another highlight of Saturday's outstanding program. The Test proved made to order for her, as the principal competition, Xtra Heat, went a quarter in 21.51 seconds, and a half-mile in 44. Prompted by Harmony Lodge, Xtra Heat was thoroughly spent when Victory Ride went on by, the favorite winning by more than three lengths with Edgar Prado contributing a well-judged ride.

G. Watts Humphrey and his wife, Louise, buy a few fillies each year - they race only fillies and sell their homebred colts - and they gave $475,000 for Victory Ride , who is by Seeking the Gold. She was ready to run at Saratoga last summer when she developed a problem behind. It defied diagnosis but responded to the passage of time, and trainer Rusty Arnold was able to start her at Keeneland this spring. She won by more than 14 lengths and was a sensation.

"She won her second start by seven lengths, but "it may have been too easy," Arnold noted. "She didn't learn much and that may have contributed to her defeat in the Acorn. But she got a lot out of the Acorn and it showed in the Test.

"She will make her next appearance in the Gazelle at Belmont and we'll try to stretch her out with the Breeders Cup Distaff in mind."

McGaughey sees family resemblance

There was an audible gasp Sunday when Beautiful Pleasure, part of a favored entry, opened a lead of 12 lengths in the $250,000 Go for Wand Stakes for fillies and mares. She paid for that expenditure, of course, and it worked primarily to the benefit of a confirmed closer, Serra Lake, who won nicely for jockey Edgar Prado.

Owned by Emory Hamilton and trained by Shug McGaughey, Serra Lake is a 4-year-old daughter of Seattle Slew out of Tarra Roma by Lyphard.

McGaughey, who leads all Saratoga trainers at this writing, saddled the dam to win the Ladies Handicap, and recalls her having the same style of closing as Serra Lake, whom he will point for the $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap on Aug. 24.