08/12/2002 12:00AM

Squirtle Squirt and Frankel unafraid of Orientate


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Bobby Frankel left town Monday afternoon. His horses did not.

Frankel returned to California on Monday to check on his Del Mar stable, and, perhaps more importantly, his two Australian shepherds at his Pacific Palisades home.

Before leaving, Frankel confirmed that Squirtle Squirt, last year's sprint champion, will make his return to the races in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap here on Sept. 1. Frankel said Jorge Chavez would ride.

Frankel had said he wanted to watch Sunday's Alfred G. Vanderbilt before committing to the race. And despite Orientate's sharp two-length victory in the Vanderbilt, Frankel is now very eager to run Squirtle Squirt in the Forego.

"After watching yesterday, I got more confidence," said Frankel, who finished the first half of the Saratoga meet with six wins from 18 starters, including three graded stakes wins. "I'm not saying I'll beat [Orientate], but I wouldn't think he'd be in front of Squirtle Squirt early. It's a Grade 1, $250,000 - I got to take a shot."

Squirtle Squirt hasn't run since Jan. 27 when he finished second in the Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita. In March, he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to remove a chip, but has been training well in California for the last month. Frankel said Squirtle Squirt would work once more in California before shipping to Saratoga next Tuesday.

Frankel will remain in California until Thursday before heading to Chicago for Saturday's Arlington Million. He will return to Saratoga Saturday night in time to watch Travers favorite Medaglia d'Oro work on Sunday morning.

Orientate's victory in the Grade 2 Vanderbilt was his fourth graded stakes win of the year, and confirmed his status as one of the top sprinters in the country. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he expects the water to get deeper for his speedy colt.

"We're going to meet some tough horses, but we're on the top of our game right now and we're doing very well," Lukas said. "We're just going to have to expect the good ones to show up and deal with them as we can. We're not at the point where we're going to dodge anybody."

Sightseek in Gazelle prep

Frankel will be in California on Wednesday, but he will be in front of a television set to watch the seventh race from Saratoga. That's when his 3-year-old filly Sightseek, an impressive maiden winner on dirt here on July 28, will make her second start in an entry-level allowance race at a mile on turf.

Frankel is not running Sightseek on the turf because she is a half-sister to Diana Handicap winner Tates Creek and is bred for grass. Frankel is running Sightseek on the turf because he feels she needs another race before a possible start in the Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap on Sept. 7 at Belmont. The next entry-level allowance race going long on dirt isn't until Aug. 31.

"Hopefully, she handles the turf and I don't ruin her record right away," Frankel said. "In case we want to run her in the Gazelle, the timing's really good. She's out of a Nureyev mare and the way she moves leads me to believe she'll handle it."

Sightseek's three main challengers Wednesday figure to be Multitudinous, Title Nine, and Unbridled's Pride.

With Anticipation to skip Man o' War

If there is to be a third meeting between With Anticipation and Denon, it will most likely take place in the $750,000 Turf Classic Invitational on Sept. 29 and not in the $500,000 Man o' War on Sept. 7.

With Anticipation defeated Denon by a head in Saturday's Grade 1 Sword Dancer, five weeks after beating Denon by a neck in the U.N. Handicap at Monmouth Park.

Last year, trainer Jonathan Sheppard ran With Anticipation back in the Man o' War following the Sword Dancer, and the horse didn't race for seven weeks prior to the Breeders' Cup Turf. This year, Sheppard believes it might be better to have six weeks to the Turf Classic and four weeks to the Breeders' Cup.

"I suppose if you just want to win another Grade 1 and another $500,000 you run in the Man o' War," Sheppard said. "It might be easier, but at the same time it would decrease your chances of winning the Breeders' Cup."

Last year, With Anticipation finished seventh in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Frankel was happy with Denon's race in the Sword Dancer, but felt his horse might have made the lead a tad too soon. Frankel plans on running Skipping in the Man o' War and will wait until the Turf Classic to run Denon, or perhaps another horse based in California.

Warners, Balto Star back on track

Nothing can make up for the loss of Left Bank - who had emergency colic surgery on Saturday and is likely finished racing [page 3] - but victories by Warners and Balto Star over the weekend helped soften the blow for trainer Todd Pletcher.

On Saturday, Warners won a six-furlong allowance race by eight lengths, his first start since running seventh in the Riva Ridge Breeders' Cup on June 8. Sunday, Balto Star won a classified allowance race on turf by 1 1/4 lengths in his first start since a fifth-place finish in the Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 18.

Two days after the Riva Ridge, Warners came down with a temperature, which led Pletcher to believe something was brewing before the race. Although Pletcher said Warners is under consideration for the Grade 1 King's Bishop on Aug. 24, a more likely scenario is Warners running in the Jerome Handicap at a mile at Belmont on Sept. 14 or the $150,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint at six furlongs at Turfway Park on the same day.

Meanwhile, Balto Star made it 2 for 2 over the Saratoga turf course, and on Sunday showed the ability to win from off the pace. With Balto Star a proven commodity on two surfaces - he won the Spiral Stakes and Arkansas Derby on dirt as a 3-year-old - Pletcher is considering running him in the Belmont Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on turf or the $400,000 Kentucky Cup Classic on dirt at Turfway Park.

"It's nice those horses came back and won," Pletcher said. "Unfortunately when something like that happens to a horse like Left Bank it takes the enjoyment out of the wins. I guess we're fortunate to have others."

Zito pair work for Travers

Trainer Nick Zito's two Travers hopefuls worked on the Oklahoma training track Monday. Both Quest and Nothing Flat were timed in 1:03 for five furlongs.

Jamie Sanders was aboard both horses, and while she said both went well, she was particularly impressed with Nothing Flat, who picked up some unexpected company during the move.

"Two horses broke off in front of me at the half-mile pole, and at the head of the stretch I was already going by them," Sanders said. "He galloped by them like they were sitting still."

Zito said he was pleased with both moves and plans to work them both next Monday. Zito said he is concerned that hot weather could affect Nothing Flat, who has bled in his last two starts.

Zito said Javier Castellano would ride Quest, but he will have to find a new rider for Nothing Flat. Edgar Prado, who rode Nothing Flat in the Jim Dandy, will ride Repent in the Travers. Zito said he would like Pat Day to ride Nothing Flat.

Meanwhile, Repent worked five furlongs in 59 seconds on Sunday, breezing by workmate Paparazzi, who had broken off several lengths in front. Though Repent has not run since finishing second behind War Emblem in the Illinois Derby, trainer Ken McPeek is confident he'll have him ready to run 1 1/4 miles in the Travers.

"With his running style, you just don't need that much depth of fitness," McPeek said.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman