05/20/2002 11:00PM

Sharp work puts Congaree on plane


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Congaree on Tuesday morning became a definite for the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap after he worked seven furlongs at his Churchill Downs base. Monday's 1 1/16-mile race will be his first since he finished third in the Grade 1 Jim Dandy at Saratoga last August.

The Lone Star Park Handicap is the richest of seven stakes Monday on a card known as the Lone Star Million Day.

, who won both the Grade 1 Swaps and Grade 2 Wood Memorial last year for owner Stonerside Stable and trainer Bob Baffert, covered seven furlongs over a fast track in 1:26.20 under Saul Gonzalez Jr.

"He had a very good workout this morning," said John Adger, racing and bloodstock manager for Stonerside. "Bob said he was just cruising."

Congaree, who had been under consideration for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park, is to be flown to Lone Star on Friday. The Lone Star Park Handicap is expected to serve as his springboard to the Grade 1, $750,000 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 15.

"I think he's a top-notch horse," said Baffert.

Congaree will be ridden by Pat Day for the first time Monday. Day will be looking for his first win for Baffert from a limited number of rides, while Baffert is after his eighth stakes win at Lone Star, and his first in the Lone Star Handicap.

The presence of Congaree caused a few defections Tuesday, but officials said there were still eight other probables for the Lone Star Park Handicap: Freedom Crest, Unrullah Bull, Reba's Gold, Remington Rock, Valhol, L.A. Spider Legs, Mercenary, and Mr. John. Possibles include Compendium and Lights on Broadway.

Three-peat for Flores?

The presence of Congaree will not scare way Reba's Gold, who will attempt to give jockey David Flores his third consecutive win in the Lone Star Park Handicap.

Dan Hendricks, trainer of Reba's Gold, said, "Congaree puts speed in the race." Hendricks said he hopes to see Reba's Gold sit right off the pace.

Flores has won more than $2 million in stakes purses at Lone Star, and despite being based in Southern California, ranks as the track's fourth leading rider in stakes wins with 10. He won the Lone Star Park Handicap last year with Dixie Dot Com, and the year before with Luftikus.

Flores has also won two runnings of the $300,000 Texas Mile - with Isitingood and Dixie Dot Com - and two runnings of the $150,000 USA Stakes - with Anet and Commitisize.

Reba's Gold comes into the Lone Star Park Handicap on the heels of a second-place finish to Unrullah Bull in the Grade 3, $300,000 Texas Mile on April 27, which was his first start outside of California.

"He handled the ship so well," said Hendricks.

Reba's Gold has worked sharply since, and last Friday at his Hollywood Park base went five furlongs in 59.80 seconds. "He did it in a gallop," said Hendricks. "The way he's training, he's coming into this race better than his last race."

More trials for Futurity

There will be three trial races for the $150,000-estimated colts and geldings division of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity on Thursday night. The first four finishers from the five-furlong races will advance to the finale on June 8.

Lonely Concorde, who starts in the seventh race, could be the shortest-priced favorite in the trials on the strength of his easy 3 1/4-length maiden win at Lone Star on May 1. He also has connections in his corner as his trainer, Jim Gaston, and his rider, Ron Ardoin, won the colts and geldings division of the TTA Sales Futurity together in 1999 with Picture I.D.

* Lone Star did not till the track as scheduled on Monday, and will instead turn up the track May 28.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee