08/29/2008 11:00PM

Lucky Island camp fears no one


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Even if Benny the Bull were in the race, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin believes his colt Lucky Island would be the horse to beat in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Forego Stakes at Saratoga.

Benny the Bull would have been favored in the Forego, but he was retired on Wednesday after developing a chip in his right front ankle. Lucky Island, who has won all four of his starts this year, will now inherit the favorite's role in what became a 10-horse field at the draw. The Forego, won last year by eventual sprint champion Midnight Lute, is run at seven furlongs.

"I'm very confident with whoever's in there," McLaughlin said Friday morning. "They have us to beat. This is a top horse, training great. We've been fortunate to be able to point for this since July Fourth. Not too many people can honestly say that."

With Lucky Island and Abraaj in his barn, McLaughlin has had the luxury of spacing out his colt's races. It has worked to near perfection with Lucky Island winning the Bold Ruler and Tom Fool. Abraaj won the Grade 2 Vanderbilt after finishing third to Benny the Bull in the True North.

Lucky Island, a son of Lucky Roberto, won the Tom Fool in front-running fashion over a muddy track. But he has been equally effective from off the pace, winning the Bold Ruler from fourth position.

"Last time we sent because it was the thing to do, and we were in the 1-hole," McLaughlin said. "In the Bold Ruler, he rated."

Lucky Island, the 121-pound highweight, will break from post 8 under Alan Garcia.

Bobby Frankel, trainer of First Defence, is another who was looking forward to the Forego with or without Benny the Bull. First Defence has won 5 of 11 career starts, and three of his best races have come at seven furlongs. Last year, he ran a game second to Hard Spun in the Grade 1 King's Bishop. Last out, he finished second to Abraaj in the Vanderbilt.

"We did a little work on the horse, maybe it'll help," said Frankel, who declined to be specific on what he did.

Breaking from the rail, First Defence figures to show speed. Real Estate, in post 7, and Tasteyville in post 10, are the other speed horses in the field.

Tony Dutrow sends out Premium Wine and Ferocious Fires in the Forego. Premium Wine, who will be part of a Ahmed Zayat-owned entry along with Forefathers, is 2 for 2 at Saratoga, including a third-level allowance win here on Aug. 13. In April, Premium Wine was beaten just a half-length when third in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct.

Ferocious Fires is 8 for 8 on dirt, and a perfect 4 for 4 at Saratoga. This will be his first attempt in a graded stakes.

"Both of my horses like Saratoga very much, both of my horses are doing really, really good," said Dutrow, who is 8 for 23 at this meet. "It's not embarrassing to have those horses go into that race. We are giving ourselves a chance of something good happening."

Eternal Star has won 5 of his last 6 races, including a neck victory in an overnight stakes race here on Aug. 9. Prior to that, Eternal Star set a track record going seven furlongs at Philadelphia Park winning the Don Levine Memorial Handicap.

Greeley's Conquest won the Prairie Meadows Sprint in his last start and also won a minor stakes at Louisiana Downs before that. Bold Start, second to Eternal Star in the aforementioned overnight stakes, completes the field.