07/23/2006 11:00PM

New security barns get thumbs up


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Last year, horsemen had so many gripes with the setup of Saratoga's race-day security barn that they nearly threatened not to run their horses on opening day.

After finally admitting they had erred by not consulting with horsemen beforehand, New York Racing Association officials promised a better situation for the 2006 meet. It looks like they have delivered on that promise.

By taking over an existing barn with 50 stalls, NYRA will now have 82 permanent stalls and only 20 temporary stalls used for the security barns. The security barns are used to house horses beginning six hours before they are to race. Only track vets and the horse's trainers are allowed in those barns, which first debuted at Belmont in the spring of 2005.

At Saratoga, where there is a premium on stall space, NYRA used only two barns that housed about 30 horses and utilized temporary stalls to house another 70. The temporary stalls, constructed under tents, were only 9 feet by 9 feet and had limited electrical capacity. Moreover, the plywood floors initially did not have rubber mats, and horsemen feared their horses slipping and injuring themselves.

By brokering a deal with Saratoga Gaming and Harness to acquire 47 stalls at the harness track, NYRA was able to utilize an existing barn with 50 stalls as a third security barn. Moreover, the temporary stalls are much bigger - 11 feet by 12 feet - than last year and are each equipped with individual electrical outlets. Those stalls are under a tent.

By eliminating two of three temporary structures, there is much more room in the security-barn area, including an area for horses to graze.

"This is much, much, much improved," said trainer Rick Violette, who toured the facility late Monday morning. "Like night and day."

George Hathaway, NYRA's facilities manager at Saratoga, said NYRA took into consideration a lot of input from horsemen in improving the security barn situation.

"We've learned from the past and we have moved forward," Hathaway said.

Gary Contessa may have summed the situation up best when he said, "I haven't heard anyone complaining so it must be all right."

Smuggler hurt; Summerly nears return

Things have not gone well for Smuggler or Summerly since they finished first and second, respectively, in last year's Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks. Smuggler has made - and lost - only two starts since then, and Summerly has not run at all.

Smuggler didn't threaten in either the Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup or Shuvee and will now miss the rest of the summer and part of early fall with bruising in a hind cannon bone, trainer Shug McGaughey said. McGaughey said the injury is similar to what Belmont Stakes winner Jazil was found to have last week.

"She's got some cannon bone issues behind, kind of like what Jazil's got," McGaughey said. "We got to give her some time. We'll turn her out and hope they kind of take care of themselves. We'll re-do it in 60 days."

McGaughey said he is hopeful that the Phipps family decides to keep her in training for another year, but wasn't certain that would happen.

Meanwhile, Summerly, who won the Kentucky Oaks in 2005, is nearing her return. She had a splint bone surgically removed last year and returned to training during the winter in Florida. After an unspecified setback in the spring, Summerly has been working steadily for a while and on Monday she drilled six furlongs in 1:13.04 over Saratoga's main track.

Summerly is nominated to Sunday's Grade 1 Go for Wand, but she is also eligible to Monday's Ashado Stakes. Blasi was non-committal on the Go for Wand.

"We'll see how she comes out of the work, see how much energy she has," Blasi said. "I want to make sure she's fit when I run her because she runs so hard. I think her fitness level is right where we want it to be. We got to pick the right spot to run her back."

Blasi's babies ready for stakes

Also on Monday, Blasi had the stakes-winning 2-year-olds Richwoman and Chace City work five furlongs in company over the Oklahoma training track for upcoming stakes engagements. They went in 1:04.14 with a final three furlongs in 36.83 seconds.

Richwoman, who won the Grade 3 Debutante at Churchill, is being pointed to the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack Stakes on Aug. 16. Chace City, who won the Victoria at Woodbine before finishing sixth in the Bashford Manor, will run next in the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special on Aug. 17.

Meanwhile, Blasi will be represented with juveniles in the opening-week stakes here. Angel Island, a debut winner at Keeneland in April, is running in Wednesday's Schuylerville for fillies, while War Wolf, a second-out winner at Churchill, will run in Thursday's Sanford for colts and geldings.

Angel Island was bumped several times in her debut win by the runner-up - and next-out winner - Gallant Dreamer, yet still managed to win by a half-length.

"She definitely took the worst of it, had a rough trip," Blasi said. "But she dug in and got the job done for us and has trained nicely since."

Blasi said War Wolf is "a very talented colt" who was compromised by a slow break in his debut when finishing third. He came back a month later to win a maiden race by 4 3/4 lengths.

Amonte back training small string

Frank Amonte Jr., who surrendered his trainer's license after failing a drug test in late March, has been back training for a month, though he no longer works for Paraneck Stable.

Amonte has three horses for owner Reid Nagle, including the New York-bred filly Curious Prospect, who runs against open-company males in Wednesday's last race at Saratoga.

In March, Ernie Paragallo, the authorized agent for his family-owned Paraneck Stable, elevated Amonte from assistant to head trainer of a large string of horses that included Kentucky Derby candidate Achilles of Troy. That horse got hurt in the Gotham Stakes and has been inactive since. A week after the Gotham, Amonte failed a drug test and had to surrender his license. He also had to complete a stay in a drug rehabilitation program, as mandated by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. Amonte said he intends to stay clean.

"I don't need no more hassles, no more aggravation," Amonte said "I work too hard in my life to get to this point and to lose it all for something like that. That's all the past. I'm on a new track now. I'm starting to pick up owners; that's all I want to do."

Amonte said he has his son, Frank Amonte III, working for him at Aqueduct. Amonte said he wants to put his father, Frank Amonte Sr., on a winner this fall. The elder Amonte, 70, is believed to already be the oldest jock to win a Thoroughbred race, having done so one day before his 70th birthday.

Saratoga simulcasts at Aqueduct

Downstate bettors who can't make the journey up the Thruway to get to Saratoga, can watch and wager on Saratoga and other signals at Aqueduct. Admission and parking are free and simulcast signals from Arlington Park, Calder, Delaware Park, Finger Lakes, Suffolk Downs, Ellis Park, and Del Mar will be offered.

* Flower Alley, last year's Jim Dandy and Travers winner, worked six furlongs in 1:11.63 Monday morning at Belmont Park. He is being pointed to the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney Handicap here on Aug. 5.

* Bluegrass Cat, the Belmont runner-up, worked five furlongs in 59.89 seconds at Belmont in preparation for a start in the $1 million Haskell at Monmouth on Aug. 6.