10/18/2001 11:00PM

Personal Pro tries to beat elders


ELMONT, N.Y. - Three-year-olds have showed little respect for their elders in the $250,000 Empire Classic, taking four of the last five runnings of the richest race restricted to New York-bred colts and geldings.

Trainer James Bond hopes that trend continues Sunday as the New York Showcase Fall Festival concludes its two-day run at Belmont Park. The Empire Classic is one of four stakes on a 10-race card, which begins at 1 p.m.

Bond, a two-time winner of the Empire Classic, will send out Personal Pro from post 7 in the nine-furlong race, which drew a 10-horse field.

Personal Pro, a son of Distinctive Pro, has not run since winning the Albany Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 22. The Albany was the third and final leg of the Big Apple Triple, a series for statebred 3-year-olds that awards a bonus to any horse that sweeps it. Bond thought Personal Pro was talented enough to do just that, but Personal Pro disappointed in the Mike Lee Handicap and New York Derby, first two legs of the series.

"It was frustrating," Bond said. "I've always liked this horse; he's just a super horse. The one thing about him is he's big and he finds himself in trouble sometimes. He should have been my [Big Apple] Triple winner."

Bond said he has not raced Personal Pro since August in an effort to have a fresh horse for the Empire Classic. He'll carry 115 pounds under Edgar Prado.

"I tried to set him up for the Empire," Bond said from Saratoga. "I like keying for a race and doing it this way. I left him up here; he trains very well here. He works hard enough in the morning."

Personal Pro, who is 2 for 2 at the Empire distance, is not the only 3-year-old in the field. Sweet Ricky, who beat Personal Pro in the New York Derby, and Watral Outer Space, a second-level allowance winner last time out, are also entered. Sweet Ricky will be coupled with Duplicitous.

The two older horses to beat are Scottish Halo and John Paul Too, who drew posts 9 and 10. A year ago, Scottish Halo tried the Triple Crown trail, but was not competitive in the Florida Derby, Arkansas Derby, and Peter Pan. He was put away following the Peter Pan and did not race for exactly one year, returning in a May 27 optional claimer at Delaware.

Scottish Halo finished last that day, but was found to have a low blood count. Following another freshening, Scottish Halo has come back with the best two efforts of his career, finishing second behind Concerned Minister in a restricted stakes at Delaware in September and winning an optional claimer on Oct. 1.

"He's twice the horse he was last year," trainer Paul Rizzo said.

John Paul Too is 0 for 2 at the distance, but trainer John Kimmel believes "his top races are as good as anybody in there."

Completing the field are Brave One, who won the Ashley T. Cole when it was taken off the turf, Galactic, No Bad Habits, and Saratoga Sunrise.

Ticonderoga draws overflow field

The $150,000 Ticonderoga Handicap was a hit at the entry box, drawing 16 runners. Only 12, however, are permitted to start in the 1 1/8-mile turf race.

Among the evenly matched field of fillies and mares are the Yaddo winner and runner-up, Ransom's Pride and Longingtobeme, and Spectaculaireontap, a winner of her last four.

Ransom's Pride is one of four 3-year-olds in the main body of the Ticonderoga, which last year was won by a 3-year-old, Shopping for Love, who later was named champion New York-bred turf filly.

In her turf debut in the 1 1/8-mile Yaddo, Ransom's Pride, a daughter of Red Ransom, defeated Longingtobeme by a neck.

"She was well bred to run on the grass and we figured it was a good time to try it," said Ransom's Pride's trainer, Mike Hernandez. "But it's always a surprise when they run as well as that the first time."

Jorge Chavez accepts a return call on Ransom's Pride, who breaks from post 12.

Eventail has raced primarily on the dirt, but ran well on the turf in her last race, finishing second to the graded-stakes-placed Elegant Ridge in open company. Eventail will have Jose Santos in the saddle.

Spectaculaireontap, a 3-year-old, has won four straight races since she started coming from off the pace. Her latest win came in a second-level allowance against open company.

Trainer Leo O'Brien, who has won two runnings of the Ticonderoga since 1995, has a coupled entry in Tiger Babe and You'll be Happy. Tiger Babe's 3-for-6 record at Belmont gives her an edge over her entrymate.

Rhum, the 117-pound Ticonderoga highweight, was sixth in the Yaddo.

On the also-eligible list are Bridal Glow, Indy Mood for Luv, Bid's Femme, and Any Scoop.

Princess Dixie escapes shadow

It didn't hurt Bond's feelings that the connections of Shesastonecoldfox elected to skip Sunday's $100,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes to try next Saturday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

A runner-up to Shesastonecoldfox in her last three starts, the Bond-trained Princess Dixie should find the going a little easier without her arch-rival in the one-mile Maid of the Mist. She'll take on seven opponents in what essentially is a preliminary allowance race.

Princess Dixie was beaten 1 3/4 lengths by Shesastonecoldfox in the New York Breeders Futurity two starts back. Last time out, she finished 15 1/2 lengths behind that same rival.

Bond said he has changed Princess Dixie's bit for this race and is hoping that will make a difference. "I like the way she's training," he said. "I think she's going to run one of her best races."

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson