08/29/2007 12:00AM

Next race uncertain for Rags to Riches


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - While her temperature has returned to normal and her blood work shows nothing amiss, Belmont Stakes winner Rags to Riches is only 50-50 to make her next start in the Grade 1 Ruffian at Belmont Park on Sept. 8, trainer Todd Pletcher said Wednesday.

Rags to Riches, who missed a scheduled workout on Monday because of an elevated temperature, walked the shed row on Wednesday and was expected to return to the track on Thursday for a gallop. Pletcher said Rags to Riches would work over the weekend, after which he would decide whether to run in the Ruffian or wait for the Gradeo1 Gazelle on Sept. 15.

"I would say it's 50-50," Pletcher said when asked about the Ruffian. "If there's any doubt I have obviously a good option seven days later."

Pletcher said Rags to Riches's temperature reached 102 degrees on Monday, but was down to a normal level - around 100.5 - for the last two mornings. He had blood pulled and tested two different times and everything seemed normal.

Rags to Riches has not run since becoming the first filly in 102 years to win the Belmont on June 9. She had a temperature that kept her out of the Coaching Club American Oaks, then was pulled up at the start of a scheduled five-furlong workout on July 22. A thorough physical examination showed no problems.

"Any horse you'd love to never have any setbacks," Pletcher said. "Any time you have one like her everything's magnified, everything's more concerning, but thankfully it's nothing serious and we can move forward."

After a severe slump in which he went 1 for 45 before winning Wednesday's sixth race with Prom Party ($8.40), Pletcher is hoping to turn things around this final weekend. Two of Pletcher's three stakes winners at this meet - Lawyer Ron and Ready's Image - will be competing in Grade 1 races this weekend. Lawyer Ron, the Whitney winner, will head the field in Saturday's Woodward, a race in which Pletcher will also run Magna Graduate.

On Monday, closing day, Pletcher will send out Sanford Stakes winner Ready's Image in the Grade 1 Hopeful, while on Sunday, Pletcher will saddle Passion in the Grade 1 Spinaway.

"We still have some live horses to run," Pletcher said.

Wednesday's win was just Pletcher's 11th of the meet, putting him in a three-way tie for second with Gary Contessa and Richard Dutrow Jr. That trio is eight wins behind Bill Mott. Pletcher has won the last five trainer's titles up here.

"We might get a moral victory, if you will, by winning the earnings title," said Pletcher, whose stable has earned $1.5 million, about $200,000 more than Mott's. "I'll be satisfied if I come up here and go 100 for 100 one year, that's when I'll be completely satisfied."

Baffert's juveniles sharp in morning, afternoon

While Pletcher has had a disappointing meet, trainer Bob Baffert has enjoyed a strong one from a limited number of starters. On Wednesday, Baffert won his third 2-year-old race of the meet when J Be K, a son of silver Deputy, won by 7 1/2 lengths at first asking. His final time of 1:01.13 for 5 1/2 furlongs established a track record, eclipsing the mark of 1:01.26 set by Secret Gypsy on Aug. 16.

"I knew he could run, but I figured he'd need the race," said Baffert, who is 3 for 6 at the meet. "In the paddock he was pretty sharp. You never know till you run them."

A few hours earlier, Baffert watched Maimonides, his $4.6 million son of Vindication, work a strong four furlongs in 46.64 seconds over the main track in preparation for Monday's Grade 1 Hopeful.

The work went better than Baffert could have hoped, as Maimonides picked up some unscheduled company when the stakes-winning filly Great Intentions broke off about five lengths ahead of him. Maimonides gained on Great Intentions throughout the move, passing her along the inside in the stretch. Maimonides, who won his debut by 11 1/2 lengths, got his last three furlongs in 34.74 seconds.

"That was good," Baffert said. "We were hoping he'd have a little target. The other day," when Maimonides worked five furlongs in 1:00.24, "he was sort of lost out there. He picked up that company, he took some dirt. We've been putting some long, stiff gallops here over the Oklahoma track. I just wanted to blow him out a little bit. I really, really was happy with the work."

Only four horses are expected to run in the Hopeful: Georgetown, Maimonides, Majestic Warrior and Ready's Image.

Criminologist smashes course record

Criminologist crushed a 10-year-old inner turf course record when she rolled through the stretch under Edgar Prado to win Wednesday's $81,700 Perfect Sting Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths over Amansara. It was 1 1/2 lengths back to favored Mo Cuishle.

The final time of 1:45.61 for 1 1/8 miles eclipsed the previous course record of 1:46.22, set by Amarettitorun on July 26, 1997.

Criminologist, a 4-year-old daughter of Maria's Mon owned by the Phipps Stable and Stuart Janney and trained by Shug McGaughey, saved ground in fourth while Miss Belga Bound set fractions of 23.11 seconds, 46.55, and 1:09.73.

Prado guided Criminologist off the hedge around the second turn, and though he took his stick out in the stretch, he never used it. Criminologist returned $11.

Grasshopper likely headed to Super Derby

The Travers runner-up Grasshopper will be pointed to the $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Sept. 22, trainer Neil Howard said Wednesday.

"We felt staying within the division was attractive," Howard said, referring to the fact that the Super Derby is restricted to 3-year-olds.

"The timing was good. That's pretty much the way we're leaning."

Grasshopper came within a half-length of Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense in last weekend's Travers. That was Grasshopper's first start in a stakes race.

Howard said that Grasshopper came out of the race so well that he returned to the track for a jog on Tuesday - one day earlier than normal - and galloped 1 1/2 miles on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Street Sense returned to the track Wednesday morning for a one-mile gallop, according to assistant trainer Ian Wilkes.

"He's bucking, he's playing," Wilkes said. "He's out there having a game. It was good to see."

Street Sense is scheduled to ship back to Kentucky on Sunday, Wilkes said.

Two out of Spinaway

J Z Warrior and According to Plan will both be forced to miss Sunday's Grade 1 Spinaway, their connections said Wednesday.

J Z Warrior, a daughter of Harlan's Holiday trained by Mott who won her second start by 10 lengths here on July 29, is out indefinitely with an unspecified injury.

"She's out," said Mott, who would not expound on the issue. Asked if J Z Warrior would make it back to the races this year, Mott said, "I certainly hope so."

Meanwhile, According to Plan suffered a minor injury to her neck that forced her to miss some training time. Trained by Barclay Tagg, According to Plan won her debut by 4 1/4 lengths at Belmont on June 29 and then ran fourth as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 3 Schuylerville here on opening day.