09/01/2004 11:00PM

Long layoffs vs. short rest

Midas Eyes, one of three horses entered in Saturday's Forego by Bobby Frankel, comes back just 10 days after winning an allowance race under Edgar Prado.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Three sharp trainers bringing talented horses back off varying degrees of layoffs make for an intriguing edition of Saturday's $250,000 at Saratoga.

Michael Dickinson brings the Grade 1 winner A Huevo back off a 294-day layoff prompted by injury. Todd Pletcher saddles Strong Hope off a designed 96-day freshening. Bobby Frankel wheels Midas Eyes back just 10 days after he won a classified allowance race here. Frankel has entered two other horses returning from layoffs, including Toccet, a 2002 Eclipse Award finalist in the 2-year-old division.

When right, A Huevo is as talented as any horse around. Myriad injuries kept him from the races for nearly four years. A Huevo returned in the summer of 2003 and, after running two races, he rallied from last to win the Grade 1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.

A Huevo, an 8-year-old trained by Michael Dickinson, was found to have a tendon injury shortly after the De Francis and was once again sidelined. A Huevo has been training steadily since the beginning of the summer, and could have run earlier than this, but his connections feared the time factor between a possible prep race and the Forego, run at seven furlongs.

"Had we given him a race, there might not have been enough time to come back from his prep race," said owner Mark Hopkins. "I believe I have the horse with the most natural talent.''

The connections of Strong Hope and Midas Eyes want what A Huevo's got: a Grade 1. Strong Hope was put away last summer with the idea of being fresh for the Grade 1 Carter and Metropolitan handicaps this spring. Strong Hope, last year's Jim Dandy winner, ran a monster race off a 200-day layoff to win an allowance race at Gulfstream in March.

Strong Hope ran a stellar race in the Carter, but was outrun by Pico Central. In the Met Mile, Strong Hope dueled for the lead before backing up to third. He emerged from the race with a lung infection.

"His race at Gulfstream was probably good enough to win a number of stakes," Pletcher said. "With that in mind we freshened him up rather than have him prep in an allowance race."

Strong Hope drew post 8, with the speed horses Unforgettable Max, Midas Eyes, and Yessirgeneralsir all to his inside.

After overcoming ankle problems, Midas Eyes came off a 190-day layoff to win a third-level allowance race here by 5 3/4 lengths on Aug. 25. It is not Frankel's modus operandi to wheel a horse back so quickly, but he believes the horse is doing well enough and is deserving of a shot to win a Grade 1.

"He's acting good," Frankel said. "He ran his best number the other day, but he's done that number three times. He ran that number early in his 3-year-old year; they're supposed to get stronger as they get on."

Midas Eyes is coupled in the wagering with Watchem Smokey, who is also owned by Ed Gann. Watchem Smokey drew post 11 and is not certain to run. Toccet was moved to Frankel in the spring after he finished last in the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap. He could be hampered by his rail post position, a less-than-desirable spot going seven furlongs. He is reunited with Jorge Chavez, who guided him to victory in the 2002 Champagne at Belmont.

The Forego could set up very well for Clock Stopper, who finished second behind Speightstown in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. In his last two tries at seven furlongs, Clock Stopper won the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland and finished second, beaten a half-length, in an allowance race here last August.

Gygistar recorded his only Grade 1 victory in the seven-furlong King's Bishop over this track two years ago. He cuts back to that distance after twice trying two turns against some of the top handicap horses in the division.

The field

Forego Handicap
Purse: $250,000; 7 furlongs; Grade 1

1ToccetJ. Chavez11215-1
2Unforgettable MaxR. Migliore1138-1
3Clock StopperP. Day1149-2
4Midas EyesE. Prado1173-1
5YessirgeneralsirR. Albarado11430-1
6A HuevoR. Dominguez1168-1
7GygistarP. Fragoso1146-1
8Strong HopeJ. Velazquez1182-1
9Gold DollarS. Bridgmohan11250-1
10EavesdropperC. Velasquez11230-1
11Watchem SmokeyJ. Castellano1143-1

* Odds by Dan Illman
* Coupled: Midas Eyes and Watchem Smokey
* Television: Saturday, 4-5 p.m. (Eastern), ESPN