07/28/2006 11:00PM

Songster favored in Amsterdam

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Simon Harris keeps Songster under a tight hold during a half-mile breeze at Saratoga on Thursday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After changing his mind about simply training up to the King's Bishop on Aug. 26, trainer Tom Albertrani appears to have found the ideal prep to get his speedy 3-year-old colt ready for that Grade 1 event.

Songster, winner of the Hirsch Jacobs and Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup in his last two starts, appears to tower over his five rivals in Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga.

"The spacing between the Woody Stephens and King's Bishop seemed like a long time," Albertrani said in explaining why he opted for this race. "And if we skipped the Amsterdam and it rained for the King's Bishop, he'd go three months without running."

Songster's only bad race came on a sloppy track, and Albertrani does not want to run him over a wet track again.

Songster has natural early speed, which he displayed winning the Hirsch Jacobs. In the Woody Stephens, he was up close to a fast pace before taking over from a stubborn Fabulous Strike inside the eighth pole.

"With him it's not a matter of trying to rate him," Albertrani said. "Let him break, take a little hold of him, and let him run his own race. In this particular race I think he's the main speed."

Songster, a son of Songandaprayer, will break from post 5 under Edgar Prado and high weight of 123 pounds. Songster will be coupled in the wagering with Changing Weather, a closer who won the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 20 for trainer Eoin Harty. Both horses are owned by Darley Stable.

Last year, trainer Steve Asmussen won his 3,000th career race in the Amsterdam when Santana Strings upset heavily favored Silver Train. Scott Blasi, who has taken over the stable while Asmussen serves a suspension, hopes to pull another upset with Noonmark.

Noonmark was beaten a neck by Sharp Humor in the Swale at Gulfstream and ran third behind Songster in the Woody Stephens at Belmont. In between, he finished a well-beaten sixth in the Derby Trial.

"Noonmark never really trained that well at Churchill, so I think you got to draw a line through that race," Blasi said. "I thought his race at Belmont, we got back on the right track. We beat the Breeders' Cup Sprint winner last year. Anything can happen. That's why you got to run them."

Court Folly finished behind Noonmark in the Swale and was beaten a head by Changing Weather in the Matt Winn.