08/09/2001 11:00PM

Secret Status sheds bad habits and wins like a pro

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - A kinder, gentler Secret Status was a winning Secret Status on Friday at Saratoga.

Rebounding from a gate incident that forced her to scratch out of the July 29 Go for Wand Handicap, Secret Status acted professionally in the gate and then proceeded to win a classified allowance race by one length over Princess Ellen on a muddy track.

"It was nice getting her back to the races," trainer Neil Howard said. "``I know it was an allowance race, but we needed to get on with it. That was a little bit of a setback the other day."

In the Go for Wand, Secret Status charged the stalls doors and hit her head on the starting gate. Not only was she dazed, but Secret Status opened a cut above her right eye that required four stitches to close. Howard brought her to the gate several times since then and it seemed to work out Friday.

Secret Status broke well, settled in fourth position along the inside, came three wide for the stretch drive, and with eight left-handed whacks of Pat Day's stick went on to the victory. Secret Status ($3.20), winner of the 2000 Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose, covered nine furlongs in 1:51.37.

"She was more settled all the way today," Day said. "She was cooler in the post parade even in spite of the hot conditions. She was very calm in the gate; I know they spent a lot of time with her and it paid off. When she first got in there she was a little antsy, then she settled down, broke good, and did everything right after that."

Despite the victory, Howard said he would most likely skip the Personal Ensign here on Aug. 24 and point Secret Status to the Grade 1 Ruffian Handicap on Sept. 15 at Belmont Park.

Princess Ellen did well to finish second in her second dirt race. After prompting the pace, she dropped back around the turn, then came again to be second. Princess Ellen did run down badly in both hind ankles. Trainer Tom Skiffington said he would have to examine the filly before deciding on her next start.

Frustrating summer for Kimmel

Frustrating would be an understatement to describe John Kimmel's Saratoga meet. In less than three weeks, Kimmel has had four high-quality horses get hurt on him, including a highly regarded juvenile filly, Gone Musical.

Kimmel had to scratch Gone Musical out of a maiden New York-bred race Wednesday when she suffered a saucer fracture of her right shin. A saucer fracture is a very small fracture in the cortex of the cannon bone, according to Kimmel.

Kimmel said Gone Musical had a "very mild" fracture and he is hopeful she can make it to the races by October.

The news is not as encouraging for Indy Vidual, Wheelaway, and Unbridling, who are all out until next year, at the earliest, after suffering injuries.

Indy Vidual, who was being pointed to the Sword Dancer, suffered a small tear of the suspensory ligament of his right foreleg. Wheelaway, who has not raced since the 2000 Belmont Stakes, also has a suspensory problem and has been sent to Niall Brennan's farm in Ocala, Fla. for the remainder of the year. Unbridling, who was beaten a neck in a second-level allowance here on July 29, sustained a bowed tendon in that race and has been sent to the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic for surgery.

The news wasn't all bad for Kimmel. A New Twist, an impressive maiden winner at Belmont, has seemingly recovered from shin problems and will arrive in Saratoga next week to continue training. She probably will not return until mid-September and is being pointed to the Astarita on Oct. 8.

Hook and Ladder, who had quarter crack problems, has had three solid breezes up here and is on schedule for the Grade 1 Forego Handicap here on Sept. 1.

"We still have several horses left here to run," Kimmel said. "``My success rate has been pretty consistent here the last six or seven years, we're not going to change anything right now. We've had a fair number of injuries to some quality horses in a short period of time. It's unfortunate for the owners, it's unfortunate to the people who work with the horses every day."

Touch Love will miss Spinaway

Touch Love, winner of the Schuylerville Stakes here on opening day, came out of that race with a bit of a shin problem, according to trainer Anthony Dutrow, and will miss the Grade 1 Spinaway here on Aug. 31.

"It's nothing alarming, it's just going to cost me some time and obviously some races," Dutrow said after saddling Native Heir to victory in Friday's fourth race. "I'd have to train her to make the Spinaway and I can't do that right now."

Dutrow said he believes Touch Love, a daughter of Not for Love who has won all three of her starts, could make the fall races at Belmont Park.

Meanwhile, Dutrow said Burning Roma came out of his third-place finish in the Haskell in great shape and will be pointed to the Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park on Sept. 15.

"I didn't even nominate him to the Travers," Dutrow said. "I think that race got to the bottom of him. I want to have him as good going into his next race as I did going into the Haskell."

Chavez bruises knee

Jockey Jorge Chavez was taken off his final six mounts on Friday's card by the track after suffering a bruised right knee when he was unseated by his mount, Whataboutus, prior to Friday's first race. Chavez did ride Whataboutus, the 3-5 favorite, to victory, but afterward he went to First Aid and was ordered off his mounts by Dr. Barry Maisel.

Chavez went to Saratoga Hospital for precautionary X-rays, which were negative. Chavez then went to have an MRI done on his knee and that also was negative.

Richie DePass, Chavez's agent, said Chavez was day to day.

o Aaron Gryder also took off his two mounts on Friday's card. According to his agent, Drew Mollica, Gryder needed a day off after taking a beating on several occasions at this meet. "He's just beat up," said Mollica. Gryder was scheduled to resume riding on Saturday's card.