08/10/2006 11:00PM

Solid statebreds renew old rivalry


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Golden Commander beat Foreverness by a half-length in the 2004 West Point Handicap at Saratoga. After injury and illness prevented both from running in the West Point last year, the two consistent New York-bred turf horses are back for Sunday's 27th running of the $100,000 West Point.

Thirteen statebreds were entered for the West Point, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles over the Mellon Turf Course. Only 12 will be permitted to run. Four additional runners were entered if the race is moved to the main track.

Golden Commander is 3 for 4 at Saratoga, in part because trainer Phil Serpe makes it a point to have him ready for this meet and the two turf stakes for New York-breds at Belmont in the fall. Unfortunately, Golden Commander injured a tendon while training here last summer and was away from the races for 10 months. He has a second and a third in two races since his return and missed last month's Draw Shot Stakes due to a bruised foot.

Serpe said he has purposely slowed down Golden Commander in his works "because of the history of the hard racetracks this spring in New York." Serpe said he believes Golden Commander's foot problems are behind him.

"I think he'll run well for us," he said.

Golden Commander should benefit from a contested pace, with Retribution, Chestertown Slew, and Certifiably Crazy in the field.

Certifiably Crazy won the Draw Shot last month by one length over Foreverness, who won the Grade 3 Fort Marcy to begin his 7-year-old season. Certifiably Crazy and Foreverness bumped in upper stretch and Foreverness threw his left front shoe, according to trainer Greg Sacco. He finished the race on his left lead.

"He bounced out of the race good," Sacco said. "That New York-bred division, it's tough. It's the horse that gets the trip. I think any one of five could win.''

Dave, who won this race last year, didn't have the best of trips in the Draw Shot. In addition to being compromised by the slow pace, Dave was taken five wide down the backstretch by jockey Javier Castellano. He was beaten five lengths.

"I told the jock to rate him a little bit and he got more worried about the pace and yanked him across heels and took him to the outside,'' trainer Barclay Tagg said. "It was a judgment call that didn't work out.''