08/25/2004 11:00PM

L'Oiseau d'Argent takes on tougher


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - L'Oiseau d'Argent ran a solid field of allowance horses off their feet earlier this month, when he set a Saratoga inner turf course record for one mile.

On Saturday, he will have to be equally as sharp if he is to win his first North American stakes, when he meets nine rivals in the Grade 2, $200,000 Fourstardave Handicap at 1 1/16-miles over the Mellon Turf Course.

The Fourstardave is an inscrutable handicapping affair. Seven of the 10 entrants are coming in off a win and seven runners are undefeated at the Fourstardave distance.

, a 5-year-old gelded son of Silver Hawk, ran one mile in 1:33.42 on Aug. 5, winning a fourth-level allowance race. Two starts back he was beaten six lengths in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap, a race whose first two finishers came back to win Grade 1 races next out.

"He's always on the muscle," said trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who won this race last year with Trademark. "He's hard to settle. We're going to be forwardly placed to say the least. I thought he might get a mile and three-eighths if he would settle, but he never settled."

McLaughlin said L'Oiseau d'Argent is a big, strong horse, and thus he doesn't fear a bounce off a career-best effort.

Trainer George Weaver has pointed to this race since he won the Grade 3 Poker Handicap at Belmont in July. Weaver is hoping Christine's Outlaw will settle going two turns in the Fourstardave. He has retained Edgar Prado to replace Shaun Bridgmohan.

comes off a neck win over Nothing to Lose in the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch earlier this meet. Silver Tree showed the ability to relax that day, something he hadn't done successfully in earlier races.

was bumped hard entering the first turn of the Bernard Baruch, and trainer Bobby Frankel felt that cost him the race. Nothing to Lose is 2 for 2 at 1 1/16 miles. John Velazquez rides.

is an interesting longshot. A Group 1 winner in Brazil, Ay Carumba rallied from well off the pace to win his North American debut in allowance company at Churchill Downs.

Irish Melody at right distance

Distance races have not suited , who flopped the two times she has run beyond seven furlongs. On Saturday in Saratoga's six-furlong, $75,000-added Victory Ride Stakes, Irish Melody figures to improve dramatically, following her seventh-place finish in the Delaware Oaks.

The inaugural Victory Ride, named for the 2001 Test winner, drew nine 3-year-old fillies.

Among Irish Melody's rivals is her stablemate . The two fillies, both trained by Todd Pletcher, are not coupled in the wagering.

Irish Melody is 3 for 3 in sprints. Cornelio Velazquez rides Irish Melody, whose regular rider, John Velazquez, sticks with Hermione's Magic.

Hermione's Magic has been in super form this year, winning two of three starts. She controlled the pace when she won her last start, a second-level allowance race at Saratoga on July 30. Pletcher said she doesn't need the early lead to win.

is the most accomplished filly in the field, but must bounce back after a 23-length loss in the Grade 1 Test.

, who has the highest Beyer Speed Figure in the field (94), could be a value play. She was in over her head when she ran in the Test and finished sixth. Prospective Saint's previous sprint efforts on the dirt have produced three wins.

Shane Sellers rides Prospective Saint from post 7.

, a graded stakes winner at 2, makes her second start off a layoff. She won the Trenton Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 1.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson