10/18/2008 12:00AM

Raffie's Treasure bred to pop in Empire Classic


ELMONT, N.Y. - Four months ago, a lot was made about Casino Drive attempting to become the third consecutive foal out of the mare Better Than Honour to win the Belmont Stakes. A stone bruise diagnosed the day before the Belmont forced Casino Drive to scratch from the race, negating his attempt to join siblings Jazil and Rags to Riches as Belmont winners.

Though it won't receive as much attention, a similar three-peat will be attempted Saturday at Belmont Park when Raffie's Treasure, a 3-year-old daughter of Raffie's Majesty-Treasure Always, runs in the $250,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park. Raffie's Treasure will attempt to join full brothers Organizer (2006) and Dr. V's Magic (2007) as the winner of the Empire Classic.

"They seem to like that day," said Dominic Galluscio, the trainer of all three siblings for owners/breeders Digby Barrios and Bob Vukovich of Majesty Stud.

Actually, a lot of people like this day, which since 1994 has been known as New York Showcase Day. The 10-race card is devoted entirely to New York-breds and includes seven stakes worth $1 million in purses. Full fields are usually the order of the day, making an interesting, albeit challenging, day for handicappers.

This year, a total of 125 horses were entered for the 10 races, including a 12-horse field - with no clear-cut favorite - in the Empire Classic, run at 1 1/8 miles. The Classic is an indecipherable race with familiar foes Stud Muffin, Lorccan, Dr. D.F.C., and R Clear Victory vying for favoritism.

The $150,000 Mohawk Handicap for males on turf drew an overflow field of 14 - only 12 may run - led by Banrock, who has won three statebred stakes this year. Classic Pack, My Man Lars, Gimme Credit and Al Basha, who have been unsuccessfully chasing Banrock all year, face him again.

The $150,000 Ticonderoga, for females on turf, drew a field of 12 led by Rewrite, who won this race last year but who has lost her last three starts. Latitude Forty and You Go West Girl, winners of recent state-bred stakes, head the list of challengers.

Ferocious Fires seeks a repeat in the $125,000 Hudson Handicap for male sprinters going six furlongs. Ferocious Fires is 8 for 8 in his career against New York-breds sprinting. His stiffest challenger among the 11 entered against him figures to be stablemate Premium Wine. Both horses are trained by Tony Dutrow.

By the Light, Talking Treasure and Under Serviced head an 11-horse field entered in the $125,000 Iroquois for female sprinters going seven furlongs.

Trinity Magic, winner of the Bertram Bongard, and Legal Consent, winner of the New York Breeders' Futurity head a field of 11 entered in the $100,000 Sleepy Hollow for juvenile colts. Sneakin' Up, winner of the Joseph A. Gimma, heads the 12-horse field entered in the $100,000 Maid of the Mist for juvenile fillies.

The last four winners of the Empire Classic have gone off at odds of 9-1 or greater. Organizer was 22-1 when he won it in 2006 while Dr. V's Magic was 15-1 when he took it last year. Raffie's Treasure, the only filly in the field, figures to be similarly dismissed by the bettors.

Galluscio was hoping to run Dr. V's Magic, but the horse contracted a life-threatening illness that required him to go to an equine clinic. He has lost substantial weight, Galluscio said, but is no longer in a life-threatening situation.

Raffie's Treasure is 3 for 6 and is coming off a six-length victory in a second-level statebred allowance here on Oct. 1. Though she is coming back on just 17 days' rest, Galluscio said the filly is ready.

"I wouldn't take a chance except for the fact the filly is very, very good right now," he said. "This is the best she's been in her life."

Though Raffie's Treasure's last two victories have come in front-running fashion, Galluscio believes the filly can be equally effective from off the pace. She won her debut in April at Aqueduct from off the pace. Galluscio believes jockey Kent Desormeaux had Raffie's Treasure too close to a strong early pace when she finished sixth in the Saratoga Dew on Aug. 25.

R Clear Victory and Spanky Fischbein could outfoot Raffie's Treasure early. If a speed duel develops any number of closers figure to benefit, including That'srightofficer, Dr. D.F.C., and Lorccan. Of that trio, Lorccan is coming off a victory over several of these rivals in the Salute Me Sir Stakes run in the mud.

In that race, Dr. D.F.C. was caught wide every step of the way and was only beaten 3 1/4 lengths.

"We thought the track was going to be better on the outside, but I guess it was pretty even," trainer Rodrigo Ubillo said. "The horses that ran one-two were pretty much on the inside. He ran okay. He gave up a lot of lengths."

Dr. D.F.C drew post 11 and will carry 120 pounds under Aldo Arboleda.

That'srightofficer came within a head of upsetting Tin Cup Chalice in the Albany Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 20. That victory enabled Tin Cup Chalice to sweep the Big Apple Triple, a series of three races for New York-bred 3-year-olds. Most recently, Tin Cup Chalice won the Indiana Derby.

The Ticonderoga, Iroquois, Mohawk, and the Classic form a pick four with a guaranteed pool of $400,000.