07/07/2011 2:36PM

Rail Trip pointing to Saratoga's Whitney Handicap

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Adam Coglianese
Rail Trip (inside), finishing second to Friend or Foe in the Easy Goer in June, worked six furlongs Thursday at Aqueduct.

ELMONT, N.Y. − Rail Trip won’t be participating in his third consecutive Hollywood Gold Cup when that race is run Saturday at Hollywood Park. But that doesn’t mean his connections don’t have big plans for him.

After watching Rail Trip run a bang-up second in an overnight stakes last month at Belmont Park, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. is pointing him to the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 6. On Thursday, Rail Trip worked six furlongs in 1:13.36 over a fast but dull Aqueduct main track.

“I could not have been any happier with his last race,” Dutrow said Thursday morning as he watched Rail Trip breeze under jockey Ramon Dominguez. “I know that he finished second, but he ran a winning a race. It was what we wanted to see. He got beat by a horse [Friend or Foe] that really likes Belmont, and our horse was just getting ready to run. It’s not like we were sitting on the race for a month, he just got ready and I put him in.”

It was after last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup, in which Rail Trip lost by a half-length at 2-5 odds, that owners Mace and Samantha Siegel moved him from Ron Ellis and shipped him cross-country to Dutrow. After battling foot issues last summer in Saratoga, Rail Trip didn’t make it back to the races until the Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, where he ran fifth of sixth, beaten 16 1/2 lengths by Haynesfield.

The foot issues resurfaced, and Rail Trip spent considerable time under the supervision of Larry Bramlage at the Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. Bramlage advised Dutrow to train Rail Trip with a protective plate to help protect the frog, or bottom part of Rail Trip’s right front foot.

“I wasn’t aware when he came to us that he had a history with this foot,” Dutrow said. “[The frog] is where it starts, but it seems like it went a whole lot deeper, is what Bramlage explained to us. We came up with a design to help protect whatever went wrong. Since he’s come back, every single day has been unbelievable for him.”

Dominguez told Dutrow that Thursday’s work was an improvement over last week’s six-furlong work, in which Rail Trip went in 1:15.28. Working by himself, Rail Trip was timed in fractions of 24.49 seconds, 36.77, and 49.08, and he galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26.31.

Dutrow said he will take the shoes off Rail Trip for a couple of days and allow him to walk the shed. He will let his blacksmith look at Rail Trip’s feet to determine when to get re-shod and go back to the track.

“He’s all ready to run, so I don’t have to freak out about a missing a day,” Dutrow said. “It’s hot. Any horse on the grounds wouldn’t mind having an extra day off. It might help, and it’s certainly not going to hurt.”

Early indications are the Whitney could be a terrific race, with Metropolitan Handicap winner Tizway and multiple Grade 1 winner Sidney’s Candy pointing to it. Flat Out, the Suburban winner, is possible.

On Thursday, Tizway breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 over the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga.

Quebrada Shiner back for hot barn

Trainer Bob Barbara hopes his good fortune at this meet continues Saturday, when he brings Quebrada Shiner back off a four-month layoff in the $60,000 Caress Stakes scheduled for six furlongs over the outer turf course.

Barbara, who is 6 for 20 at this meet, also entered Becky’s Exchange but said he plans to scratch her.

Quebrada Shiner, a 6-year-old mare, has not been out since Feb. 11, when she finished fourth in a conditioned allowance race going a mile at Gulfstream. Before that, she finished eighth in the Grade 3 Marshua’s River Stakes, also at Gulfstream.

“She didn’t do well in Florida, so we sent her to the farm for a little bit and brought her back,” Barbara said.

Barbara said he believes the six furlongs of the Caress will be more to Quebrada Shiner’s liking.

“Three-quarters is her game,” Barbara said. “She loves to sit back and make one big run.”

In her only start at six furlongs, Quebrada Shiner fell a head short over this turf course in the Glowing Honor Stakes. She has won races at five and 5 1/2 furlongs.

Quebrada Shiner will probably have to run down Rose Catherine, a multiple-stakes-winning mare who won the Nonsuch Bay Stakes by a half-length here June 8. She does have to tote high weight of 124 pounds against a solid field that includes Much Rejoicing, an overnight stakes winner sprinting here May 13, and Sea Wolf, whose late run fell a half-length short of Rose Catherine last out.

Avenging Spirit finds his stride

Two of Barbara’s six wins at this meet have come with Avenging Sprit, a 4-year-old son of Tapit who is finally realizing the potential Barbara thought he had all along.

Barbara was touting Avenging Spirit in the summer of 2009, before the horse ever ran. Avenging Summer didn’t start until January 2010, and he finished second in his first four starts. One day last July, Avenging Spirit reared up on the track and landed on Barbara’s arm, breaking it. Ultimately, Avenging Sprit was gelded.

Still, it took him until November to clear the maiden ranks. Since March 10, Avenging Spirit has won 3 of 4 starts, including front-running allowance victories going a mile here April 29 and July 1.

“I didn’t want to cut him, but it had to be done,” Barbara said. “As bad as he was, it’s taken a year since we cut him for him to become a racehorse. It’s taken this long for his mind to settle. Now he’s almost like an old cow. He’s trainable, manageable, and fun to be around. Before, it was all hell.”

Barbara said he isn’t sure where Avenging Spirit will run next, but he did say he would like to stretch him out to 1 1/8 miles rather than back him up to seven furlongs, which would be his distance choices at Saratoga.

“A mile and an eighth is probably what I’ll do somewhere,” Barbara said. “If I have to go to Philly or Monmouth I will. Of course, I’d love to stay here. I’ll see what’s available and take it one step at a time. I think this is just the beginning. The talent is there.”

* Beau Choix ($8.80) rallied along the rail in the stretch under Ramon Dominguez and outfinished Pocket Cowboys, who was charging four wide, to win the $60,000 Rob N Gin Stakes by a nose. Beau Choix, owned by Belle Meadows Farm and Lael Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.58 over a firm Widener turf course.