07/05/2004 11:00PM

Medallist on track for return

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Medallist put in a strong mile work Tuesday for Sunday's $150,000 Dwyer Stakes for 3-year-olds at Belmont Park.

Under jockey Jorge Chavez, who has the call in the Grade 2 Dwyer, Medallist covered the distance in 1:36.24 after the renovation break on Belmont's main track, which was listed fast.

According to the Belmont clockers, Medallist began his work at the seven-eighths pole and clicked off fractions of 24.40 seconds, 59.30, and 1:22.60.

Trainer Allen Jerkens said if Medallist comes out of the work in good shape he will run in the 1 1/16-mile Dwyer.

A son of Touch Gold, Medallist hasn't raced since winning the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct on May 1. After dueling with favored Forest Danger through absurdly fast fractions, with a strong tailwind at their backs down the backstretch, Medallist won the Withers by 3 1/4 lengths. In the stretch, Medallist drifted out to the middle of the track despite being hit with a right-handed whip by Chavez.

After the Withers, Jerkens said Medallist had a tender splint, and he gave Medallist about six weeks to recover.

"We poulticed it and gave him some time," said Jerkens, who trains Medallist for Robert Clay. "I didn't think he would work that fast [Tuesday]. I thought he would go in 1:39. It was a windy day when he won the Withers, and with the wind at his back, he kept rolling. He has a lot to prove yet."

Tuesday's work was Medallist's fourth since the Withers.

The probable Dwyer field, with riders, is The Cliff's Edge (Shane Sellers), Preachinatthebar (Jerry Bailey), Medallist (Chavez), Shaniko (John Velazquez), Sir Shackleton (Rafael Bejarano), Golden Look (Edgar Prado), and Ecclesiastic (Richard Migliore). Joe Six Pack is also possible.

Golden Look, with Prado aboard, worked a half-mile in 49.54 in the slop on Monday at Belmont. Shaniko worked a half-mile in 50.18 at Saratoga on Sunday.

Strong field shapes up for Poker Burning Roma and Millennium Dragon, each assigned 120 pounds as the co-highweights in Saturday's Grade 3 Poker, are among the probable starters in the mile turf race.

The $150,000 Poker is also expected to attract Silver Tree (117); Multiple Choice (115); Chilly Rooster (114); Christine's Outlaw (113); Megoman (113); Provincetown (112); and Bourbonnais (111).

On Tuesday over Saratoga's training track, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin worked both of his Poker starters, Millennium Dragon and Megoman. Millennium Dragon, the likely favorite in the Poker, worked a half-mile in 50.86; Megoman covered the same distance in 50.34.

Chilly Rooster worked a bullet five furlongs in 58.51 on Tuesday over Belmont's main track.

Colic hampers Eye of the Tiger

McLaughlin said Eye of the Tiger, who was scratched from Sunday's Grade 2 Tom Fool because of colic, would be pointed to the R.R.M Carpenter Jr. Memorial Handicap at Delaware Park on July 17. "He colicked a little bit and we had to treat him," McLaughlin said. "He's fine."

La Reina moves show to turf

La Reina's future may be on turf.

The connections of La Reina came into the year believing they had a major player in the 3-year-old filly division. On the surface, it looks like they still might.

That surface is grass.

La Reina made a successful turf debut Sunday, beating a field of older fillies and mares by one-half length while running one mile in 1:34.15 seconds. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

La Reina had a successful 2-year-year-old campaign on dirt, winning two of four starts including the Grade 3 Tempted. She was also beaten a nose by Ashado in the Grade 2 Demoiselle.

After beginning her 3-year-old season with a second-place finish behind Madcap Escapade in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream, La Reina was well-beaten in Grade 1 events such as the Ashland and Acorn.

Trainer Shug McGaughey and his staff were baffled by La Reina's performance in the Acorn, noting she was one of the soundest horses in the barn. La Reina's breeding - she's a half-sister to Grade 1 turf winner Brahms - suggested she might handle the surface switch.

La Reina took the lead shortly after the start and was able to hold off Shoot, the odds-on favorite who is trained by Bobby Frankel, in the stretch.

"She was very happy with what she was doing," said Buzz Tenney, McGaughey's assistant. "Her ears were pricked; she was comfortable. It gives her a new lease on life, you might say. We knew she could run, it was just a matter of getting it out of her."

La Reina will have plenty of turf options in the coming months, starting with the Grade 3, $100,000 Lake George Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 2. Saratoga also hosts the Grade 2, $150,000 Lake Placid on Aug. 23.

Oaks a target for Magical Illusion

Magical Illusion, a 10-length winner of an entry-level allowance race on July 1, could make her next start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 24, trainer James Bond said.

Magical Illusion, a daughter of Pulpit, won her maiden by 17 1/2 lengths here May 9, but finished fifth, beaten five lengths in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 4. Bond says he believes Magical Illusion was compromised in the Acorn by being on the inside.

"She drew the one hole which was a bad spot, and she hadn't had the experience that the competition had," Bond said. "If she had drawn the five or six hole and got to stalk, I think she would have run better."

In her allowance win, Magical Illusion raced just off the pace for the opening quarter-mile before proving too much for her competition. She ran a mile in 1:35.06 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

"Physically she came out of the race in good order, and I think she'll get the distance," Bond said.

The Coaching Club, run at 1 1/2 miles since 1998, has been shortened to 1 1/4 miles this year.

Nacheezmo working his way back

Nacheezmo, the 2003 Dwyer Stakes runner-up who has been sidelined since last August, is nearing a return to the races, Bond said. Nacheezmo has not raced since finishing fifth as the favorite in last August's Jim Dandy Stakes. He emerged from that race with a chip in his knee that required surgery.

Nacheezmo, who was beaten a neck by Strong Hope in the Dwyer, has breezed seven times since May 22 over Saratoga's training track, including a bullet half-mile in 49.35 seconds June 28. Bond said Nacheezmo, who worked a half-mile in 51.18 on Tuesday, could possibly make a start before the Belmont meet ends.

"He's a couple of weeks away," Bond said. "He's training very well. We'll keep our fingers crossed."

- additional reporting by David Grening