08/25/2007 12:00AM

Shakis rides rail to victory

Email

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Jockey Alan Garcia guided Shakis through a narrow opening in upper stretch and the 7-year-old Irish-bred horse did the rest as he exploded through the lane en route to a three-quarter-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.

Shakis, a son of Machiavellian owned by Shadwell Stable and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, set a new course record by running 1 1/8 miles in 1:45.33 over a firm Mellon turf course. That eclipsed the mark of 1:45.40 set 34 years ago by Tentam and equaled in 1978 by Waya.

Big Prairie, a 22-1 longshot, rallied from well off the pace to get second by a head over Drum Major. Ballast, Cosmonaut, Woodlander, Stay Close, Silver Whistle, Linda's Lad, and Gun Salute completed the order of finish.

Four years ago, McLaughlin and Shadwell won the Bernard Baruch with the 7-year-old Trademark.

The key to victory for Shakis was a turn back in distance from 11 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles as well as a hot pace and a ground-saving ride from Garcia.

"He just didn't get 11 furlongs last time," McLaughlin said, referring to Shakis's fourth-place finish in the Bowling Green Handicap last out. "He's a real professional, a 7-year-old, done everything right in the past. I was just happy that he was willing and still had plenty of horse to go down the inside and get through."

Ballast, under Ramon Dominguez, set fractions of 23.10 seconds, 47.10, and 1:10.11 for the opening six furlongs with Cosmonaut, the 8-5 favorite, and Gun Salute chasing from second and third. Garcia had Shakis saving ground right behind Ballast down the backstretch.

Turning for home, Ballast put away his pace-prompters but drifted off the fence just enough for Garcia to guide Shakis through. As he was going through, Ballast came back over and bumped Shakis but that didn't bother him as he continued on for the victory. Shakis returned $12.60 to win.

"I had a lot of horse," Garcia said. "My horse, he just needed the opportunity. Ramon moved a little bit and [Shakis] kept going and he wasn't intimidated too much."