09/29/2003 12:00AM

Silver Wagon will skip Champagne


ELMONT, N.Y. - Silver Wagon, the impressive winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga in August, is sick and will not make the trip from Florida for Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park.

Monday, Silver Wagon worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 over a sloppy Calder main track. Afterward, an endoscopic examination showed the presence of mucus in Silver Wagon's trachea, trainer Ralph Ziadie said.

"He just cannot be 100 percent and it doesn't make sense to go to a race like this if you're not 100 percent,'' Ziadie said. "We'll let him ride this virus out and then look for another race. I'm not exactly sure where we'll go next. I'll discuss it with Mr. Fustok."

Ziadie was referring to Mahmoud Fustok, the head of Buckram Oak Farm, which owns Silver Wagon. Ziadie reiterated that Silver Wagon would not be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Following the Hopeful, Ziadie had said that Silver Wagon would be pointed to the 2004 Kentucky Derby. That road could start in the $100,000 What a Pleasure Stakes at Calder on Dec. 13.

Jerry Bailey, who would have ridden Silver Wagon in the Champagne, was not without a mount long. Bailey will now ride Birdstone, the half-brother to Kentucky Oaks winner Bird Town, for owner Marylou Whitney and trainer Nick Zito. Edgar Prado had ridden Birdstone in his first two starts but will be at Keeneland all weekend.

"We're ecstatic we got Bailey to ride Birdstone,'' said Zito, who won three straight Champagnes from 1998 to 2000.

Birdstone, who worked six furlongs in 1:15.83 last Saturday at Saratoga, was expected to arrive at Belmont on Wednesday.

Others expected for the Champagne include Chapel Royal, Dashboard Drummer, Motivus, Notorious Rogue, Paddington, and Read the Footnotes. Cooperation, trained by Bob Baffert, is a possible starter.

Ghostzapper won't run in BC Sprint

Despite his impressive victory in Saturday's Grade 1 Vosburgh, Ghostzapper will not contest the Breeders' Cup Sprint, trainer Bobby Frankel confirmed on Monday. Frankel believes the speed-favoring nature of Santa Anita's surface and the fact Ghostzapper likes to rally around horses combine to make the Sprint a bad fit for his 3-year-old.

"He's a young horse and I think he's got a great future,'' Frankel said. "I don't think that track suits him.''

Frankel acknowledged that Ghostzapper and Aldebaran - a late-runner whom Frankel will run in the Sprint - have similar racing styles, but he believes Aldebaran is a different type of horse.

"Aldebaran can run through horses, can come up the rail,'' Frankel said. "The other horse basically wants to come around.''

Frankel said there is a slight chance Ghostzapper could run in the Grade 1, $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29. But the more likely scenario is that Ghostzapper is put away for the year and will be pointed to New York's major sprint races next spring, such as the Carter at Aqueduct in April and the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in May.

Midas Eyes, Frankel's other top 3-year-old sprinter, worked five furlongs in 1:00.65 Monday morning at Belmont and still remains a possibility for the Sprint, Frankel said.

Frankel said that Peace Rules, the 3-year-old who won the Blue Grass and Haskell Invitational, would be pre-entered in both the Breeders' Cup Classic and the Breeders' Cup Mile. Frankel said Peace Rules could run in the Classic if Mineshaft skips the race.

No Breeders' Cup prep for Lady Tak

Lady Tak, the Grade 1 Test winner, will not run again before the Breeders' Cup Distaff, trainer Steve Asmussen said Monday morning.

Lady Tak has not run since finishing second, beaten one-half length in the Grade 1 Gazelle at Belmont on Sept. 6. Asmussen had Lady Tak nominated to both Saturday's Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park and Sunday's Overbrook Spinster at Keeneland but decided the filly would run better in the Distaff without a race three weeks prior.

"It's where we're at with her right now,'' Asmussen said. "The long year might have something to do with it; she's been going for a long time now. She needs a little better spacing between races, she was fresher earlier in the year. [I] thought hard about it, considered who was going to run and didn't feel like we could get her best race like that regardless of who she was running against.''

Asked his reaction to Azeri's losing Sunday's Lady's Secret Handicap, Asmussen said: "It brings to the light how humbling the game can be.''

Lady Tak will ship to Asmussen's Churchill barn on Wednesday along with Posse, who is being pointed to the BC Sprint, and Cuvee, who is headed to the BC Juvenile. All three horses will train at Churchill before shipping to California four days before the Breeders' Cup.

"It's starting to cool off here. I don't want them to grow a winter coat,'' Asmussen said.

Monday, Cuvee worked five furlongs in 1:03.66 over Belmont's main track.

Sightseek heads Beldame field

Trainer Bobby Frankel believes that Azeri's loss in Sunday's Lady's Secret Handicap at Santa Anita could open the door for Sightseek to overtake her as champion older filly and mare.

Frankel feared that if Azeri had won the Lady's Secret, she might have run in the Breeders' Cup Classic against the boys. Thus, Azeri would have finished the year unbeaten against her own sex and could have been forgiven by voters had she faltered against males.

Now, Frankel is hopeful that Sightseek, a winner of three consecutive Grade 1 races, will get the chance to face Azeri in the Distaff with a championship on the line.

"Now, it's who wins from now on,'' Frankel said. "It's not a slam-dunk as if Azeri had won and run against the boys. Now, she's got to prove herself against the girls.''

Sightseek will seek her fourth straight Grade 1 in Saturday's $750,000 Beldame at Belmont. Sightseek worked an easy half-mile in 50.01 seconds Monday, just six days after she blitzed six furlongs in 1:10.60.

"She didn't need much more than that,'' Frankel said.

Also pointing to the Beldame are 3-year-olds Bird Town, Buy the Sport, and the 4-year-old Passing Shot. Island Fashion and Summer Colony are possible starters.

Saturday, Buy the Sport, the Gazelle winner, went five furlongs in 1:03.61 at Belmont while Passing Shot went seven furlongs in 1:28.45, also at Belmont. At Saratoga, Bird Town covered seven furlongs in 1:28.06.

Quest is Kentucky-bound

Quest, who finished second to Mineshaft in Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup, will make his next start in the $150,000 Fayette Stakes on Oct. 25 at Keeneland, Zito said. Quest became a late addition to the Gold Cup field when Empire Maker was withdrawn with a bruised foot.

"That worked out good,'' Zito said. "Sometimes you got to keep playing the game. He's a horse that's getting better and better. There were some pretty nice horses behind him in Moon Ballad and Evening Attire.''

Zito said Quest would use the Fayette as a prep for the $500,000 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29. Zito noted that owner Arthur Hancock is from Kentucky. Zito added that Quest is scheduled to run again next year at age 5.

Bailey expected back Wednesday

Bailey, who now owns the single-season record for Grade 1 stakes wins by a jockey (22 and counting), took off his mounts Sunday with soreness in his right shoulder.

Bailey was hurt last Wednesday when he was thrown at the gate by Elyon, whom he rode to a second-place finish in that race. Initially, it was believed that Bailey had injured his back. Bailey is expected to ride on Wednesday.

Bailey has 58 stakes wins, 10 short of Mike Smith's record 68 set in 1994.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch