09/08/2006 12:00AM

Magical Ride learning how to relax

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ELMONT, N.Y. - While the 2-year-old filly Magical Ride has flashed brilliant speed in both of her starts, trainer Rusty Arnold knows that in order for her to be successful stretching out she's going to have to learn to harness her speed.

Magical Ride, an impressive debut winner here in July who finished third in the Grade 2 Adirondack, took a big step toward doing that on Friday when she breezed five furlongs in 1:01.81 over Belmont's main track. She began her work about seven lengths behind stablemate Special Event, a 4-year-old gelding, and finished 1 1/2 lengths in front. Exercise rider Simon Harris was aboard for the work, which is designed to get Magical Ride to the Grade 1 Matron here on Sept. 23.

"I wanted her to relax behind a horse,'' Arnold said. "Simon had been working very hard on that and we decided to just put her behind one and let her kind of stay there. It wasn't intended for her to run up and catch him at all. I just want her to learn she doesn't have to be in front the whole way, and it worked pretty good.''

Arnold said Magical Ride seems more relaxed training at Belmont than she did at Saratoga.

"She was a little sharper and a little bit harder for [Harris] to get her off the bridle,'' Arnold said. "Since she's got back here she's gotten better each day as far as relaxing; that's his input to me.''

Arnold said Magical Ride would work one more time, most likely next Saturday, before running in the Matron, where she is likely to run against impressive maiden winner Panty Raid.

Strong Contender preps for Super Derby

Strong Contender, winner of the Dwyer Stakes and the third-place finisher in the Haskell Invitational, worked six furlongs in 1:12.48 Friday over Belmont's main track as he prepares for the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 23.

Jockey Edgar Prado was aboard for the work, the fastest of five at the distance. Strong Contender went his first quarter in 25.40 seconds and his final half-mile in 47.08.

"Edgar was happy, and if Edgar is happy then I'm happy,'' trainer John Ward said. "He's matured quite a bit; he's leveled out now coming through the stretch. He hasn't got that baby legs going all over the place.''

Ward said he believes that as a May foal, Strong Contender has been behind many of the 3-year-olds born earlier in the calendar year of 2003.

"What I see is he matures a lot between every race,'' Ward said. "You have a May 15th foal; he's about where most horses would be about in the middle of July.''

Ward said Strong Contender would come back with an easy work next week before shipping to Louisiana Downs.

Dr. Pleasure and Minister's Bid, the Ward trainees who finished third and last in the Travers, both worked five furlongs at Saratoga on Friday. Dr. Pleasure went in 1:01.40, the best of 25 moves at the distance. Minister's Bid went the same distance in 1:03.47. There are no definite plans for those two colts.

Magna Graduate on comeback trail

Magna Graduate, sidelined since late May due to a small fracture in his right hind ankle, has resumed working in hopes of making it back to the races later this fall.

On Friday, Magna Graduate worked three furlongs in 39.49 seconds over Belmont's main track. On Sept. 1, Magna Graduate worked three furlongs in 39.87 seconds.

Magna Graduate has not raced since finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup on March 25. He was elevated to third when Brass Hat was disqualified from second due to the finding of a corticosteroid in a postrace test.

Magna Graduate was training toward a start in the Stephen Foster Handicap in June when he got injured in a workout at Churchill Downs.

"Initially they didn't feel like he'd need surgery,'' trainer Todd Pletcher said. "They finally decided to go ahead and clean it up."

Pletcher said he hopes Magna Graduate could make it back for the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs. Magna Graduate won the Clark when it was a Grade 2 last year.

Swap Fliparoo back on track

Test Stakes winner Swap Fliparoo, who missed some time due to a sprained ankle, worked a half-mile in 49.96 seconds on Wednesday morning. It was her first work since she won the Test on Aug. 5.

Trainer Allen Jerkens said Swap Fliparoo could run in either next Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Floral Park Handicap at six furlongs on dirt or the $65,000 Graceful Darby at seven furlongs on the turf on Sept. 21.

"I thought she ran good when she was second the first time she ran on the grass,'' Jerkens said. "We'll see.''

Jerkens said that War Front, second in the Grade 1 Forego, will make his next start in the Grade 1 Vosburgh here on Oct. 7.

Meteor Storm nears return

Meteor Storm, winner of the Grade 1 Manhattan in 2004, worked six furlongs in 1:16.11 Friday over Belmont Park's main track as he nears a return to the races at age 7.

Trainer Wally Dollase said there was no interest from North American breeders for Meteor Storm at the end of last year, so he decided to return him to training after taking a chip out of an ankle in January. Meteor Storm ended a nine-race losing streak winning the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder in December, his last race.

Dollase said he believes he can sell Meteor Storm to South African interests, but since that country's breeding season isn't until next summer, the horse will have ample opportunity to race.

Meteor Storm has worked six times since July 31, and Dollase said the horse might need one more breeze before he looks to run him in a race.

"I didn't ask him for any speed - he's got so much class, that was like doing nothing for this guy,'' Dollase said of Friday's work. "There's a race for him in about two weeks. We'll give him one more six [furlong work] and see if he's ready.''

MacArthur may return Wednesday

For the second time this week, there were not enough entries to fill the $100,000 General Douglas MacArthur Handicap for New York-breds. The racing office planned to try and bring the race back for next Wednesday. Entries for Wednesday's card were to be taken on Saturday.

The race was originally scheduled for Friday, but did not fill. The racing office tried to bring the race back for Sunday, but the same three horses entered - West Virginia, Spite the Devil, and Organizer. Racing officials are hoping the extra few days will entice one or two others to run.

* Latent Heat ($3) easily cruised to a 3 1/4-length win over Tinseltown in a third-level allowance Friday at Belmont Park. Despite never feeling Edgar Prado's whip, Latent Heat ran one mile in 1:35.34, his third win from four starts. A crowd of 3,766 ushered in Belmont's fall meeting, which runs through Oct. 22.