05/15/2002 11:00PM

Sir Barton: Shah Jehan looks primed

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You could say Shah Jehan looks like a million bucks, but you would still be $3.4 million in the red. The 3-year-old colt, who cost $4.4 million at auction two years ago, looked like a bust earlier this year, when he ran last in consecutive stakes races at Santa Anita.

Since leaving California, though, Shah Jehan has begun to look like a top colt. After capturing an allowance race at Keeneland and finishing second in Aqueduct's Withers Stakes, he will be a strong favorite to get his first stakes victory in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes.

The 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton also will be the comeback of Iron Deputy, who won the two-turn Count Fleet Stakes in January at Aqueduct. Shah Jehan, however, will be difficult to oppose, both in terms of current form, and the race shape, since he has speed and can carry it. D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Shah Jehan, said the key to his colt's form reversal has been "trying to get him to leave his company.

"He was herd-broke. He's very social, but that's not a good trait in a racehorse," Lukas said Thursday.

Iron Deputy won three straight before heading to the sidelines. This will be his first start in 4 1/2 months. He, however, is proven around two turns, whereas Shah Jehan has yet to win beyond seven furlongs.

A dangerous late threat is Sarava, who finished strongly to place second in a pair of allowance races at Keeneland last month. One of those races was against Wiseman's Ferry, who subsequently won last Saturday's Lone Star Derby.