08/18/2007 12:00AM

Loose Leaf readies for Travers try

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Ken McPeek knows Loose Leaf will have to "run the race of his life" to be competitive against the likes of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes.

But there are some things playing in Loose Leaf's favor entering the 138th running of the Midsummer Derby at Saratoga. Loose Leaf is an improving 3-year-old with a win over Saratoga's main track and will be ridden by one of the hottest riders on the grounds, Kent Desormeaux.

On Saturday, Loose Leaf completed his major preparations for the Travers by working five furlongs in 1:02.30 over the main track. With Desormeaux up and blinkers on, Loose Leaf went in fractions of 13.11 seconds, 25.26, 37.27, and got his last quarter in 25.03 seconds.

"It was planned, something simple, something easy - he just needed something that would continue him to focus in on finishing," McPeek said. "That's the game anyway at a mile and a quarter."

Loose Leaf finished extremely well when winning the Lemon Drop Kid, a stakes restricted to non-stakes winners run on Aug. 5. After racing four wide down the backside he moved inside for the stretch drive, split horses nicely in upper stretch, and accelerated to the front under right-handed urging from Desormeaux, who went to a hand ride late.

"If he finishes like that off of probably a stellar pace he can win it," Desormeaux, the second-leading rider at this meet, said of Loose Leaf's chances in the Travers. "Not only the pace but another quarter of a mile. If they can still kick after running a mile, that's what separates the men from the boys."

Loose Leaf, a son of Notebook, has improved greatly since undergoing throat surgery in February. After finishing third in a sprint race, he won a two-turn second-level allowance race - with Desormeaux up - at Churchill Downs before finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Northern Dancer and fifth in the Iowa Derby. McPeek believes jockey Robby Albarado may have moved too soon in the Iowa Derby.

"He actually made the lead at the head of the lane," McPeek said. "He should have sat and waited I think he could have won the race."

It looks as though the Travers will be a seven- or eight-horse field. The confirmed runners are C P West (with jockey Cornelio Velasquez), Grasshopper (Robby Albarado), Helsinki (Julien Leparoux), Loose Leaf (Desormeaux), Sightseeing (Edgar Prado), Street Sense (Calvin Borel), and Tiz Wonderful (John Velazquez). For You Reppo, who was scheduled to work Sunday at Saratoga, is a possible starter.

Maimonides preps for Hopeful

Maimonides, the $4.6 million 2-year-old who won his debut by 11 1/2 lengths here on Aug. 8, worked six furlongs in 1:15.06 Saturday morning in preparation for a start in the Grade 1 Hopeful here on Sept. 3.

Maimonides actually got some unscheduled company in the breeze as a horse trained by Gary Contessa broke off just behind him. Simon Harris, aboard Maimonides, let the Contessa horse go ahead of him before blowing past that one in the stretch. Maimonides got his last quarter in 24.45 seconds.

"It worked out good," trainer Bob Baffert said." He let that horse go, relaxed off him, and let him finish up a little bit. He must've worked good, [Harris] was petting him at the wire."

Harris said he was glad to pick up the company in order to teach Maimonides how to rate.

"For a second he fought me, but when I got him a half-length off that horse he just switched off, Harris said. "He relaxed nicely. In the stretch I gave him his head and he finished nice. He surprised me the way he switched off."

Attila's Storm works

Attila's Storm, bidding to make it to his third straight Breeders' Cup Sprint, may have his final prep for that $2 million race in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap here on Sept. 1, trainer Richard Schosberg said.

On Saturday, Attila's Storm worked a strong five furlongs in 1:00.84 over Saratoga's main track. He worked in company with Run With the Lark, starting a few lengths behind that one and finishing a length in front.

"He worked good, laid off another horse, let him come up to him in case we find ourselves in that situation," Schosberg said. "We opened the blinkers up on him, which is what we're going to do for his next race. If a horse comes to him he will see him. It worked out real good this morning, he worked good galloped out good and came back in good order."

Attila's Storm, plagued by foot problems throughout the spring, came off a 4 1/2-month layoff to run a good second behind Diabolical in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap here on July 28. Schosberg said the reason he is considering running back in the Forego is because he likes the timing from that race to the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.

"The Vosburgh is too close; we've done that before," Schosberg said. "All the other races are too close. We want to give him as much time between races as possible."

Latitude Forty scores Yaddo upset

Latitude Forty, with Desormeaux up, moved past pacesetter Factual Contender inside the eighth pole en route to a 1 1/4-length in the $112,600 Yaddo Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares.

Factual Contender, under Eibar Coa, held second by 1 1/2 lengths over Symphony of Psalms. Half Heaven was fourth. J'ray, the even-money favorite, never got involved and finished sixth.

Factual Contender was able to make a relatively easy lead, setting fractions of 24.08 seconds, 48.67, and 1:12.65 with Latitude Forty stalking in second. Factual Contender turned for home with a two-length lead, but Latitude Forty was able to wear her down.

Latitude Forty, a daughter of Chester House trained by John Hertler and owned by Dee Zee Stable, covered the 1 1/8 miles over firm turf in 1:47.84 and returned $48 to win.