09/30/2002 11:00PM

Pretty Wild's Breeders' Cup is Saturday


ELMONT, N.Y. - Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes will be the third race in five weeks for Pretty Wild. That explains why trainer Stanley Hough says Pretty Wild will have to do something extraordinary to convince him and owner Einar Robsham to go on to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile later this month at Arlington Park.

"This, for us, is our Breeders' Cup," Hough said Tuesday morning after Pretty Wild drilled four furlongs in 47.98 seconds, the second-fastest of 25 moves at the distance. "Obviously, you can't rule it out; if he runs a great race you'd still have to think about it. But, in all probability, he'd run in this and maybe something like the Remsen."

The Champagne is one of four graded stakes to be run Saturday at Belmont. The other Grade 1's on the card are the Frizette for juvenile fillies and the Beldame for the filly and mare division. The Grade 2 Kelso is a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Based on his last two races, Pretty Wild figures to be among the favorites for the Champagne, along with Del Mar Futurity winner Icecoldbeeratreds and Saratoga Special winner Zavata.

After winning his maiden by five lengths on July 13 at Belmont, Pretty Wild contracted a cough that forced him to miss some training time and the early juvenile stakes at Saratoga. He ran in the Grade 1 Hopeful off a seven-week layoff, and after contesting the pace he gave way to Sky Mesa, finishing 1 3/4 lengths behind him.

Pretty Wild came back 15 days later and finished second again, to Whywhywhy in the Grade 1 Futurity on Sept. 15, run in a driving rainstorm.

"He could have went to the lead last time if we wanted him to, but we wanted to take him back and he made a nice little run," Hough said. "My main concern was bouncing off that race 15 days earlier. For this, he's got a little bit more time."

The red-hot Shaun Bridgmohan has been aboard Pretty Wild for his last two starts and his last two works. On Sept. 25, Bridgmohan rode five winners on one card and last Saturday he won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup with Evening Attire.

"He doesn't take a backseat to anyone right now," Hough said.

Also expected for the Champagne are Cape Good Hope, Desert Warrior, Erinsouthernman, Outer Reef, Risky Cat, and Toccet.

Santa Catarina gets acid test

In addition to Icecoldbeeratreds for the Champagne, trainer Bob Baffert shipped in Santa Catarina on Tuesday to run in the $500,000 Frizette.

Santa Catarina, a daughter of Unbridled who sold for $950,000 at auction, is coming off a neck loss to Miss Houdini in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Aug. 31. Santa Catarina had a rough trip in the Debutante, bobbling at the start, lacking room around the turn, splitting horses three wide turning for home and diving to the inside in mid-stretch. "She just ran out of ground," Baffert said. "It took me three days to get over that one. It usually takes me a day and a half."

Baffert, who will run Atlantic Ocean in the Alcibiades at Keeneland and Composure in the Oak Leaf at Santa Anita this weekend, said he chose the Frizette for Santa Catarina because he felt she would appreciate Belmont's wide, sweeping turns.

"She's a really good filly," he said. "We'll find out how she fits in with Storm Flag Flying."

Others pointing to the Frizette are Appleby Gardens, Fabulous Brush, Fircroft, Fortuitous, and One and Twenty. Cyber Secret and Harford Ghost are possible.

Godolphin has had super year

The sudden death in April of defending juvenile filly champion Tempera was an ominous beginning for Godolphin's 2001 stay in North America. All in all, however, this year will go down as a positive one for Godolphin's North American-based stable.

Heading into the weekend, Godolphin has recorded graded stakes wins with five different horses. And Godolphin may not be finished yet. This weekend, Godolphin will be represented by three graded winners: in the $750,000 Beldame with Imperial Gesture, the $400,000 Meadowlands Cup with Express Tour, and the $250,000 Cotillion with Jilbab. Godolphin's other graded winners this year were Street Cry and Essence of Dubai.

In her last two starts, Imperial Gesture has established herself as one of the top 3-year-old fillies in training. She romped to a six-length allowance win on Aug. 23 at Saratoga and came back two weeks later to whip Take Charge Lady and Bella Bellucci in the Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap, running nine furlongs faster than Lido Palace did in the Woodward the same day.

"She appears to be the in the same condition as she was before the last race," Albertrani said.

In July, Jilbab won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at 12 furlongs. Jilbab did not begin the year in the blue silks of Godolphin's first string, but will represent Godolphin - as she did in the CCA Oaks - in Saturday's Cotillion.

"When she won the Coaching Club she still had a winter coat that day, she wasn't the most attractive horse in the paddock," Albertrani said. "I just like the way she looks now and the way she's training up to this race. She could be at her best right now."

Express Tour ran a solid third in the Woodward, and should meet a weaker group in the Meadowlands Cup Friday night. He worked five furlongs in a slow 1:04.02 Tuesday morning.

"He's fit and well," Albertrani said. "If he runs back to the same race in the Woodward, he should be fine."

Albertrani said Express Tour may stay for the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 30.

E Dubai, the Suburban winner, worked seven furlongs in 1:29.65 Tuesday at Belmont as he trains up to the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Baptize to try Kelso

After having won an allowance race here on opening day, Baptize will return to graded stakes company in Saturday's $350,000 Kelso Handicap.

Baptize was equipped with blinkers for the first time in that allowance race, and he pressed the pace before taking over after a half-mile was run.

"I think they helped him concentrate," Bond said Tuesday from Saratoga. "When Pat [Day] got off him at Saratoga, he said this horse is just constantly switching leads."

Speaking of the allowance win, Bond said, "I really thought he exploded and won pretty handily. This race is a different story. We're hoping we get a firm turf course."

Baptize, who worked three furlongs in 36.25 seconds Tuesday at Saratoga, was assigned 115 pounds for the Kelso. He will be in receipt of weight to top contenders Forbidden Apple (121), Balto Star (117), Moon Solitaire (117) and possibly Volponi (117), who is also being considered for the Meadowlands Cup. Others expected for the Kelso include Lunar Leo (114), Patrol (114), Krieger (113), and possibly River Rush (114), Green Fee (113) and Waltzin' Storm (113).

England's Legend has infected jaw

Trainer Christophe Clement said Tuesday that England's Legend came out of her sixth-place finish in Saturday's Flower Bowl Invitational with an infected jaw.

"The day of the race she was sore in the bottom part of the jaw, but we thought we could get away with it," Clement said. "We believe she has some kind of infection on the bottom of her jaw. We'll treat it and go from there. As of now we cannot put a bridle on her so she's going to miss a few days of training."

Asked about the possibility of making the Breeders' Cup, Clement said, "I don't know."