08/19/2003 11:00PM

Penney again takes last Mile spot

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AUBURN, Wash. - The field for Sunday's 68th running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile is set at 12 after the defection of Private Lap, who will run in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Philip Iselin Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth Park.

Trainer Steve Klesaris said the Iselin made more sense for Private Lap, who faced a long, indirect flight from Delaware Park to get to Emerald Downs.

Private Lap's absence means that Salt Grinder's 112-pound assignment will be enough for a berth in the Mile, which seemed unlikely at the beginning of this week. The turn of events reminded Salt Grinder's trainer, Jim Penney, of his experience last year with Sabertooth, who won the 2002 Mile at 17-1 after winning a shake for the final slot in the starting gate on entry day. Penney said he does not yet have a rider for Salt Grinder, who is coming off a second to Handy N Bold in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap.

Sabertooth will try for a repeat in the Mile under Gallyn Mitchell at 115 pounds. Last year's champ issued a reminder that he will be a factor in the race on Wednesday morning, when he worked three furlongs in 34.40 seconds with exercise rider Bryson Cooper up.

"He breezed very well, and he is really coming into the Mile about the same way he did last year," said Penney. "Last year he led through a mile in 1:34.40 in his last prep race at 1 1/8 miles, and this year he led through a mile in 1:34.80 in the same race. It's not much different."

Besides the two Penney trainees, who will not be coupled in the wagering because of separate ownership, the Mile field will consist of: Sky Jack, 123 pounds, Russell Baze up; Gondolieri, 121, Frank Alvarado; Nose the Trade, 118, Jose Valdivia; Alfurune, 116, Juan Gutierrez; Flying Notes, 116, Kevin Radke; Lord Nelson, 116, Frank Fuentes; Moonlight Meeting, 116, Gary Baze; Poker Brad, 116, Ben Russell; Total Limit, 116, Scott Saito; and Handy N Bold, 115, Dave Wilson.