07/21/2002 11:00PM

Shug slowly getting back into swing of things


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Shug McGaughey, who underwent triple bypass surgery six weeks ago, was back at his usual perch outside barn 81 Monday morning, overseeing the preparation of his stable for the upcoming Saratoga meet.

McGaughey arrived in Saratoga on Saturday and plans to be at the barn every morning and hopes to attend the races as often as he can. McGaughey, 51, underwent the procedure on June 13 after doctors found three blockages around his heart two days earlier during a routine physical exam.

"If I get tired, I'm going to go home,'' McGaughey said. "I can't work 100 percent, but as close as I am I can be here.''

McGaughey said he was stunned when doctors told him about the blockages around his heart. McGaughey had been working out at a gym four days a week and was jogging and playing golf regularly.

"I thought I was going along great in life and during some routine physical they find something like that,'' McGaughey said. "I guess I'm lucky that they found what they found when they found it. I had a little family history of it, and I guess I should have paid a little more attention to that part of it than I did.''

Shortly after his surgery, McGaughey went to his Belmont barn once a week. His doctors have advised him to take it slow, and his friends, co-workers, and bosses have done the same.

"I am lucky that I have people more worried about my health than they were if they won the third that day,'' said McGaughey, the private trainer for the Phipps family.

McGaughey's barn struggled during the Belmont meet, winning just three races. However, he had some luck out of town, most notably with Atelier winning the Molly Pitcher at Monmouth Park. Atelier is expected to make her next start in Sunday's Grade 1 Go for Wand Handicap at Saratoga.

"This is what we pointed for last year and it didn't work out, so we got it to work out this year,'' said McGaughey, who won this race six times, most recently with Serra Lake last year.

The Go for Wand is shaping up to be the best race of the opening weekend. Among those expected to run are Grade 1 winners Forest Secrets, Miss Linda, as well as Dancethruthedawn, Too Scarlet, Transcendental, and With Ability.

Hubley looks to make his mark

Trainer Mark Hubley has a real chance to capture his first Saratoga stakes victory when he sends out Miss Mary Apples in Wednesday's $150,000 Schuylerville Stakes. Hubley, 49, had trained horses on the Finger Lakes circuit for 10 years before becoming disenchanted and quitting the game.

He recently got back into it with some assistance from his best friend, Larry Doyle, who owns Miss Mary Apples along with brother Jimmy and high school chum Christopher Connors.

Hubley currently has four horses in training. Miss Mary Apples, a daughter of Clever Trick, won her maiden first time out at Keeneland before falling a head short to Holiday Runner in the Fashion Stakes at Belmont.

"I'm very excited to be in a race of this quality,'' Hubley said. "I remember my ex-wife used to work for Del Carroll and he used to win this race every year. This is a big deal. It's very exciting to be in the race and more exciting to be here with a contender.''

Prior to training horses, Hubley worked short stints as a foreman for Bobby Frankel and a night watchman for Neil Drysdale.

"I was a good night watchman,'' Hubley said. ``No horses were stolen.''

Holiday Runner pointing for Adirondack

Holiday Runner, who defeated Miss Mary Apples in the Astoria, would have been favored to win Wednesday's Schuylerville. But an illness forced her to miss the race.

"She got sick in Kentucky and took us a little longer than we planned to get her back,'' said Mike Maker, assistant trainer for D. Wayne Lukas. "The next one is for her.''

Holiday Runner is 3 for 3, including a win against the colts in the Three Chimneys Juvenile on Derby Day at Churchill.

Biancone sitting on big meet

When Mayakovsky set a track record in the third race on opening day last year, it got trainer Patrick Biancone off to a good start. Unfortunately, it was the only win Biancone would get for the meet.

This year figures to be different for Biancone, who has 20 head stabled at Saratoga, including a bevy of fast babies. Biancone has the talented duo of Zavata and Whywhywhy, who both won stakes at Belmont.

Zavata, regarded as the top juvenile colt in the East, barely missed a track record winning the Tremont and is being pointed to the Saratoga Special on Aug. 14. Whywhywhy, who won the Flash Stakes, will run in Thursday's $150,000 Sanford Stakes here.

Meanwhile, Mayakovsky is being pointed to the Amsterdam on Aug. 3 and the King's Bishop on Aug. 24.

Biancone had entered Stellar in Wednesday's Schuylerville but said he would scratch to await a maiden race on Saturday. Biancone will send out Le Notre, an unraced 2-year-old son of Pentelicus, in Wednesday's third race, but the colt must overcome post 12.

"Better post 12 than post 1,'' said Biancone, who has liked what he has seen from Le Notre in the morning.

Puzzlement returns on opening-day card

Puzzlement, the Peter Pan runner-up who was scratched out of the Belmont Stakes with a bruised foot, returns to the races Wednesday in a second-level allowance race.

The nine-furlong race, carded as the seventh, came up extremely tough with the likes of Dubai Tiger, Wild Years, and Almostashar in the field. Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens said should Puzzlement run well, he would wheel him back in the $500,000 Jim Dandy on Aug. 4.

"If he wins there he'd be in good shape I'd think,'' Jerkens said after examining the past performances of Wednesday's allowance field. ``"He should be tight enough.''

Monday, Jerkens worked Puzzlement five furlongs in 1:02.84 over Saratoga's main track. Jerkens also worked Greatness, his undefeated 3-year-old colt, six furlongs in 1:16.02 in preparation for the Amsterdam Stakes on Aug. 3.

More televisions, more simulcasting

There will be more action for horseplayers at this year's meet. As part of last year's legislation that lowered takeout, tracks and OTBs were able to offer two out-of-state signals simultaneously with Saratoga. Management only offered one last year, but after installing more than 100 additional televisions during the off-season, Saratoga will now offer two tracks while its live meet is running as well as Finger Lakes.

Depending on the day of the week, Saratoga horseplayers can wager on races from Delaware, Calder, Arlington, and Monmouth.

While most of the wagering formats remain the same this year, management has added a wrinkle to the pick four. On Saturdays, the pick-four, which is offered on the final four races of the card, will have a guaranteed pool of $500,000. On Travers Day, (Aug. 24), the guaranteed pool will be $1 million. That day, the wager will be offered on the four stakes races.

Distance changes for off-the-turf

In hopes of keeping more horses in the race, NYRA will change the distances of some races scheduled for the turf that get rained off to the main track.

Races scheduled for 1 1/4 miles or 1 3/8 miles on turf would be run at 1 1/8 miles on dirt. Races scheduled for 1 1/2 miles or 1 5/8 miles on turf would be run at 1 3/16 miles on dirt.

In the past, these races would have been run at the same distances regardless of surface.