08/12/2005 11:00PM

Spanish Spur back in marathon

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Handicappers might not care to give a second look in Monday's $65,000-added John's Call at Saratoga because he is in a 1 5/8-mile turf race and coming off a year layoff.

Spanish Spur hasn't run since winning the John's Call last August, but trainer Jonathan Sheppard said he isn't very concerned that Spanish Spur is coming back in such a long race. A 7-year-old gelding, Spanish Spur was sidelined with a "slight tendon injury," according to Sheppard.

"Some people feel it's easier to get a horse fit to run a long distance because speed isn't essential," he said.

Sheppard also trains steeplechase runners, so he knows a little something about getting a horse ready to run a distance of ground.

Rain was in the forecast over the weekend, but a soft course shouldn't be a problem for Spanish Spur, who won the John's Call over yielding ground last year.

In addition to Spanish Spur, Sheppard will run Stage Call and Dr. Bloomer in the John's Call, which drew nine runners. is 2 for 2 at Saratoga. In his last start, he finished second to L'Oiseau d'Argent in the Sussex at Delaware Park on July 30. L'Oiseau d'Argent was a front-running winner of the Sussex, which was run in a swift 1:41.24 for 1 1/16 miles. Sheppard said Stage Call "ran remarkably well."

Dr. Bloomer is an outsider who is coming off a win in a first-level allowance race. The Sheppard horses are not coupled in the wagering.

Muqbil, the likely favorite, is the horse to beat in the John's Call. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Muqbil has finished second in his last three starts, and the horses who defeated him in those races, Salic Law (twice) and King's Drama, are better than those he meets in the John's Call.

Rousing Victory, a stakes-placed runner, could be ready for a top effort in his second start off a long layoff. Earlier in the meet, he ran third behind the undefeated Shakespeare.

Rayon and Brickell, both ideally suited to the distance, are a coupled entry for owner Peter Vegso and trainer Bill Mott. Jerry Bailey is named on both horses, so only one can run.

Three horses are entered main-track only, including Chowder's First, a stakes winner last year at Saratoga.