08/29/2004 11:00PM

Strong Hope fresh and sharp

Email
Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Strong Hope will make his first start since finishing third in the May 31 Met Mile in Saturday's Forego.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After an adventurous breeze on Aug. 23 when he had to go extremely wide to avoid a loose horse, Strong Hope had an uneventful work at Saratoga on Monday as he prepared for Saturday's Grade 1 Forego Handicap.

Strong Hope worked five furlongs over the main track in company with stablemate Colita. Strong Hope, who was ridden in the work by Angel Cordero Jr., covered the distance in 59.24 seconds. Colita was timed in 59.27.

Strong Hope hasn't raced since finishing third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile on May 31. The $250,000 Forego will be his fourth race this year. Strong Hope won his 4-year-old debut in a very impressive performance in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in his first start since last year's Travers. He then ran second in the Grade 1 Carter to Pico Central, who came back to win the Met Mile.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Strong Hope for Eugene and Laura Melnyk, said the seven-furlong Forego has been his goal for Strong Hope ever since he ran in the Met Mile.

"He ran so well fresh the first time out at Gulfstream," Pletcher said. "The only thing lacking on his resume is a Grade 1 win, and this looks like a solid opportunity to get a Grade 1. Seven furlongs is a suitable distance for him."

Midas Eyes may return in Forego

Midas Eyes, who won a third-level allowance race by 5 3/4 lengths here on Aug. 25, may wheel right back in Saturday's Forego Handicap, trainer Bobby Frankel said.

Frankel said he needs to assess whether Midas Eyes will regress if he runs in the Forego.

"He came out of his race really well," he said. "We'll see in a few more days. It's a Grade 1 and you hate to pass up a Grade 1 with a horse that can win it.''

Midas Eyes hadn't run in eight months when he recorded his allowance win, covering 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.82 while virtually being eased at the wire. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110.

Frankel has two other horses he's considering for the Forego, Watchem Smokey and Toccet. Monday, Watchem Smokey and Toccet worked five furlongs in company. Toccet, with Jorge Chavez up, was timed in 1:00.23, while Watchem Smokey, under Edgar Prado, covered the same distance in 1:00.71.

Toccet, who was transferred to Frankel earlier this year, will definitely run in the Forego. Midas Eyes and Watchem Smokey are both owned by Ed Gann and only one is likely to start.

Strong Hope will be the 118-pound highweight in the Forego. Midas Eyes was assigned 117. Others expected to run, and their weight assignments, are: Pohave (117), A Huevo (116), Clock Stopper (114), Yessirgeneralsir (114), Unforgettable Max (113), and Toccet (112). Gygistar (114) is possible.

Monday, Yessirgeneralsir worked four furlongs in 47.22 seconds over the main track.

My Typhoon impresses in debut

My Typhoon, a half-sister to European champion Galileo, made an auspicious debut Sunday, winning a 1 1/16-mile maiden race by seven lengths at first asking. She earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 76.

Under Jerry Bailey, My Typhoon dueled with Winsome through an opening quarter in 24.23 seconds before Winsome took back. My Typhoon then went on her merry way and cruised to victory while only being shown the whip. She covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.02 over good turf.

"I thought she ran very well,'' trainer Bill Mott said. "I suppose it would have been better if there was some pace in the race; maybe she'd have gotten a better education. She was on the lead all the way, but I think she'll be all right.''

With limited stakes opportunities for 2-year-old turf fillies until late fall, Mott may try My Typhoon on the dirt in her next start. One possible race is the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont on Oct. 9.

"She's bred for the grass, she's worked well on dirt,'' Mott said. "Is the dirt a consideration? Yes, the dirt is a consideration.''

Rain hurt Travers handle

Mother Nature played a big role in why Travers Day business was down considerably from last year.

Travers Day attendance plummeted from 66,122 in 2003, when the weather was gorgeous, to 48,894 this year when humid weather produced a severe storm that rolled in shortly before post time for the Travers. The storm resulted in post time being moved up by three minutes, which resulted in an estimated $3 million loss in handle, according to New York Racing Association officials. Handle figures took another hit when the final race on the card had to be canceled because of the storm.

The total handle on Saratoga's races dipped from $39,489,785 for 12 races last year to $33,073,020 for 11 this year.

Sunday's attendance and handle also were down. Only 19,748 were at the track on Sunday, compared with 27,205 last year. Bill Nader, NYRA's senior vice president, said with Labor Day falling late on the calendar, he anticipates the rest of the meet to be down in attendance and handle.

"But if the weather cooperates, we should come close to matching the [overall] numbers from last year," Nader said.

Impressive 2-year-old returns

Proud Accolade, one of the more impressive 2-year-old debut winners of the meet, makes his second start in a 6 1/2-furlong entry-level allowance race on Wednesday's card. Proud Accolade will break from post 6 in the seven-horse field.

Proud Accolade, a son of Yes It's True, won his debut on July 31 by 7 1/2 lengths, while covering 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.56. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

Trainer Todd Pletcher opted not to rush Proud Accolade into stakes company in either the Sapling at Monmouth Park or the Hopeful here.

"I didn't want to take him to Monmouth because that's a track where you got to go, go, go, and that's not what I'm trying to teach him,'' Pletcher said. "Where the Hopeful is positioned, it didn't make good sense to run him in there off one start against horses that had three or four starts.''

Pletcher said if Proud Accolade runs well, he could run him back in the Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 19, train him up to the Champagne at Belmont on Oct. 9, or train up to the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland the same day. The Champagne and Breeders' Futurity are Grade 1 races. The Futurity is a Grade 2.

Proud Accolade's stiffest competition Wednesday figures to come from Royal Moment, a debut winner here on opening day, and Calypso Band, who finished eighth in the Sanford here on July 29.

* Wednesday, trainer Steve Asmussen was to begin serving a 15-day suspension for a clenbuterol positive for one of his horses who tested positive after he ran on Aug. 16, 2003 at Retama Park. Asmussen originally appealed the suspension, but later withdrew the appeal. While he is suspended, Asmussen's horses in New York will run under the name of assistant Scott Blasi.

* NYRA has moved up its 2005 Saratoga seat lottery to Oct. 31 to speed up the processing of seat requests.

- additional reporting by David Grening