09/18/2003 11:00PM

Not even surgery can derail Grab Bag


ELMONT, N.Y. - For any horse, stringing together five wins is not an easy feat. But kudos are especially due to Grab Bag, who was able to keep her streak alive through an eight-month layoff and colic surgery.

Grab Bag is among seven New York-bred fillies and mares entered in Sunday's $100,000-added Schenectady Handicap at Belmont Park.

In the six-furlong Schenectady, Grab Bag, the 118-pound highweight, seeks her sixth consecutive win and her first in a stakes.

Trained by Tom Skiffington, Grab Bag began her winning streak in August 2002 in a statebred maiden race, which she won by 10 lengths. She won her next two starts in restricted company. After winning a first-level allowance race in open company last November, Skiffington brought Grab Bag to Florida, where he planned to prepare the filly for her 4-year-old campaign. A day after shipping back to New York on May 10, Grab Bag suffered a twisted intestine and underwent surgery at New Bolton in Pennsylvania.

Grab Bag returned to the races as good as new on Aug. 31 at Saratoga and won a second-level allowance race by a length.

"I was surprised by her performance because you don't see horses do what she did coming off an eighth-month layoff and colic surgery," said Skiffington, who trains Grab Bag for Henry T. Waring. "The really good ones are able to overcome things like that."

Edgar Prado rides Grab Bag from the rail.

A win in the Schenectady would help to lessen the blow that Skiffington and Waring suffered last Sunday when Grab Bag's younger full brother, One Last Chance, was euthanized after breaking his leg in a maiden race.

"We had high hopes for him," Skiffington said. "Every time you lose one, it scars you."

Travelator, who finished second to Grab Bag in her last race, looks like Grab Bag's biggest threat. Multiple Wins, Kings Empress, Lady Libby, Self Rising, and We'll Sea Ya complete the field.

Lunar Sovereign on fence for Turf Classic

On Friday, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said he wasn't certain that Lunar Sovereign would run in next Saturday's $750,000 Turf Classic Invitational, but he was leaning in that direction.

Lunar Sovereign, undefeated in four grass starts at Belmont, won the Grade 1 Man o' War by 2 3/4 lengths on Sept. 6.

"He is coming off a huge race and it's 21 days back. It's a little quick back for me," McLaughlin sad. "He's doing well and with being 4 for 4 at Belmont, you need to look at it strongly."

The Grade 1 Turf Classic is shaping up to be a strong race. Among the expected runners are Sulamani, Storming Home, Deeliteful Irving, Slew Valley, and foreign invaders Sabiango and Polish Summer. An alternate list of invitees for the 1 1/2-mile Turf Classic will be released Sunday.

McLaughlin is targeting two other grass stakes. Trademark, who won the Bernard Baruch and Fourstardave in his last two starts, and Millennium Dragon, an impressive winner of an allowance here on Wednesday, are under consideration for the $350,000 Kelso at Belmont on Oct. 4 and the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland the same day.

McLaughlin will run a horse in both spots but hasn't decided who is going where.

Millennium Dragon won a classified allowance race on the turf by two lengths and covered the seven furlongs in 1:20.20, .32 seconds off the track record.

Dynever doubtful for Gold Cup

The probability of Dynever, who had a slightly elevated temperature for a couple days last week, running in next Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup is slim, according to trainer Christophe Clement.

"It's not a big deal but it was something we had to deal with," Clement said. "He's come out of it okay."

Clement said Dynever, who finished sixth as the favorite in the Pennsylvania Derby in his last start on Sept. 1, would be nominated to the Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 3 and the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park on Oct. 4.

Pletcher's plans for 2-year-olds uncertain

Todd Pletcher is targeting a pair of 2-year-old stakes here Oct. 4, the Champagne and Frizette, for Chapel Royal and Ashado, but his plans are not as definite for Value Plus, the runner-up in last Sunday's Futurity, and Marylebone, the winner of the Matron the same day.

"My plans are up in the air," Pletcher said. "The dilemma is whether to run back between now and the Breeders' Cup."

Pletcher said Keeneland's Lane's End Breeders' Futurity on Oct. 4 and the Darley Alcibiades on Oct. 3 are the likely spots for Value Plus and Marylebone if he decides to run them again before the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Pletcher also trains the Matron runner-up, Lokoya, who is a candidate for the Alcibiades.

Pletcher said that Irish Road, a promising 3-year-old he trains for Mount Joy Stables, underwent surgery on Thursday at Hagyard-Davidson-McGee in Lexington, Ky. to remove a chip in his left knee. The injury is not expected to be career ending.

Irish Road, a winner of 3 of 5 starts, was being prepared to run in last Saturday's $150,000 Jerome Handicap when the injury was detected following a morning workout.