08/08/2005 12:00AM

Private Gift looks best off last


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - There were not enough entries to fill the $65,000 Quick Call Stakes, so the feature on Wednesday's Saratoga card is a $52,000 third-level allowance race for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.

A field of six was entered, including the coupled Overbrook Farm entry of Family Business and Winning Season. The race also carries an optional claiming tag of $75,000. Only Think Fast is eligible to be claimed.

, a 3-year-old half-sister to Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Status, looks like the horse to beat in this field. Private Gift bounced back from a fifth-place finish in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes with a second-level allowance victory at Churchill on June 16.

Private Gift was very strong in that race. It appeared Private Gift would stalk a developing speed duel, but entering the first turn one of the speed horses bolted, so Robby Albarado and Private Gift chased the other speed horse and made the lead early in the race. Private Gift ran six furlongs in 1:11.90 and turned back two challenges from the three-furlong pole to the wire to win.

Trainer Neil Howard gave Private Gift some time off, believing the filly needed more seasoning before trying stakes company again.

"She's taken a little bit of time to mature; she would be a little preoccupied sometimes," Howard said. "Now she's come around. I have noticed a change in her, subtle things training-wise."

Private Gift could be on the pace again or stalk , who enters this race off two poor performances but did win at this condition three times earlier in the year.

Trainer Bobby Frankel, who wanted to run the Australian champion Alinghi in the Quick Call, instead will run Taygete in here. has been off since winning a second-level allowance race on June 16 at Belmont Park. Taygete has shown marked improvement in her three starts with blinkers, and Frankel noted that "she's not as nervous as she used to be."

comes off a second-place finish in a classified allowance race at Churchill on July 8. Trainer Dallas Stewart hopes Jerry Bailey can keep her closer to the pace than she was that day. Winning Season, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, won a minor stakes at Aqueduct in the winter, but enters the race off two poor efforts.

Strategy takes a much-needed class drop after finishing a well-beaten fifth in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap. But her allowance win three starts back makes her competitive in here.