08/22/2008 11:00PM

Shakis repeats with flying finish

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Different turf course, same result for Shakis in the Grade 2, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Stakes.

One year after winning the Bernard Baruch by three-quarters of a length while setting a Mellon Turf Course record, Shakis rallied from well back on Saratoga's inner turf course to get up four strides from the wire and beat War Monger by three-quarters of a length. It was another three-quarters of a length to Operation Head Dawn, who got third by a head over Thorn Song.

It was the first victory for Shakis ($14.80) in five starts since he won last year's Baruch in a time of 1:45.33 for 1 1/8 miles. Saturday, his final time over a firm inner turf for the same distance was 1:46.78.

Shakis, an 8-year-old son of Machiavellian owned and bred by Sheikh Hamdan's Shadwell Stable, joined Win (1984-85) and Hap (2000-01) as the horses to have won this race back-to-back. Fourstars Allstar won it in 1992 and 1995.

Alan Garcia rode Shakis, recording his fourth winner on the card. It was trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's third winner of the day.

When the opening half-mile went in 48.17 seconds and Shakis had only two horses beaten, McLaughlin wasn't loving his chances to win. But the pace began to pick up and Shakis launched a rally into the stretch before tipping out five wide in midstretch and running down War Monger, who overtook Thorn Song inside the eighth pole.

"I was afraid they weren't going fast enough, we were looking for a faster pace,'' McLaughlin said. "We just wish they ran the Bernard Baruch twice a year instead of once a year.''

McLaughlin said Shakis had excuses in his first three starts this year, including a tough comeback race against Kip Deville in the Maker's Mark Mile. He also caught soft turf at Pimlico in the Dixie, and had a fast turnaround to the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan.

"This is what he wants to do,'' McLaughlin said. "Alan rode a great race and we did a great training job.''