10/03/2008 12:00AM

Is Persistently a McGaughey throwback?

Email

ELMONT, N.Y. - After winning the Frizette five times in an 18-year span, trainer Shug McGaughey has not had a runner in the last four runnings of this Grade 1 race for juvenile fillies.

McGaughey will seek to turn back the clock Saturday when he sends out the talented Persistently against nine others in the $400,000 Frizette at Belmont Park. Under the Win and You're In program, the winner of the Frizette, contested at one mile, earns an automatic berth into the $2 million Breeders Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Oct. 24. In 2002, McGaughey and owner Ogden Mills Phipps won both races with Storm Flag Flying.

Persistently is by Smoke Glacken out of the dam Just Reward, who is a half-sister to 1993 Frizette winner Heavenly Prize, trained by McGaughey. After winning a maiden race in her second start at Saratoga, Persistently finished second behind Doremifasollatido in the Grade 2 Matron. Persistently was forced to go eight wide in the stretch of the Matron while the winner split horses along the inside.

"That filly got through and shook loose on the lead and we just couldn't catch her," said McGaughey, whose filly will break from post 5 under Alan Garcia. "We were extremely wide, probably will be again. Hopefully, [Garcia] can wait a little bit longer and we won't be quite as wide."

Owner Jeff Puglisi and trainer Steve Klesaris have one of the Juvenile Fillies division leaders in Mani Bhavan - who was to run in Friday's Grade 1 Alcibiades at Keeneland - and they appear to have another good one in Sky Diva, who won her debut by 10 lengths at Delaware Park on Sept. 9. She beat only three horses and won in a common gallop, but Klesaris believes she is ready to take on more seasoned horses.

"I really think she's a quality filly, she's given me every indication she is from Day 1," said Klesaris, whose filly will break from the rail under Ramon Dominguez in the Frizette. "I'm kind of excited about stepping her up into bigger and better company. She's been an exciting filly. I think she's ready for what she's going to go up against."

Collegiate was a good-looking debut winner here in June, but disappointed in two graded stakes tries at Saratoga. She caught slop in the Schuylerville and attempted to bear out in the Spinaway, said her trainer, Mark Hennig. He hopes the addition of blinkers, the return to Belmont, and the one-mile distance all favor Collegiate.

"I think she handles the turns here better than she did at Saratoga," said Hennig, who won the 2000 Frizette with Raging Fever. "She's a big horse."

Trainer Tom Albertrani sends out the uncoupled entry of Gemswick Park and Royal Ballade, both of whom won a maiden race here on Sept. 14. Gemswick Park is the quicker of the two, but Royal Ballade may be better-suited to the one-mile distance.

War Echo, Miss Ocean City, Winning Brew, Coffee in Bed, and Heavenly Vision complete the field.