08/18/2002 11:00PM

Private Emblem tries Triple again


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The final leg of the Big Apple Triple, the $150,000 Albany at Saratoga on Wednesday, features the winners of the first two legs, plus the losing favorite in both those races.

No Parole, the winner of the Mike Lee in June at Belmont, and Trial Prep, who won the New York Derby last month at Finger Lakes, are shooting to win two-thirds of the Big Apple Triple for New York-bred 3-year-olds.

Private Emblem, the Grade 2 Arkansas Derby winner, will try to atone for his losses as the favorite in both the Mike Lee and New York Derby.

Those three meet four others in the 1 1/8-mile Albany.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sends out Private Emblem in hopes of breaking out of his Saratoga slump. Through Monday's card, Asmussen was 0 for 15 at the meet.

Private Emblem appeared to hold a class edge in both the Mike Lee and New York Derby. An Our Emblem colt, Private Emblem had a tough trip and was third in the seven-furlong Mike Lee, his first race since finishing 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Private Emblem figured to be better suited to the two turns of the New York Derby, but he hung in the stretch and finished second, beaten less than a length by Trial Prep.

"It's taken him a little time to get his confidence back since he ran in the Derby, and he was a little light physically," said Scott Blasi, Asmussen's assistant. "We're hoping for a better effort."

Jerry Bailey rides Private Emblem for the first time.

Trial Prep has proven to be a versatile and consistent runner. From six lifetime starts, Trial Prep has won $225,777 and has won races from five furlongs to 1 1/16 miles on fast and off tracks.

Trial Prep, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., showed another important quality when he fought back after being headed by Private Emblem in the stretch of the New York Derby.

"I think when he gets headed, that is when he wants to run," Dutrow said.

A new shooter in the Big Apple Triple is Private Practice, the only horse in the field with a win over the track. Private Practice has won back-to-back races this summer, including a

3 1/4-length score at the Albany distance on Aug. 7.

"At all costs, he will be on the lead because that's what he does," said Gary Contessa, trainer of Private Practice.

The distance of the Albany is a stumbling block for No Parole, who has lost each of his four starts around two turns.