08/12/2004 11:00PM

Suave being pointed to Travers


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Suave, runner-up to Rock Hard Ten in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park, will make his next start in the Aug. 28 Travers Stakes at Saratoga, trainer Paul McGee said Friday.

In the weeks following the July 10 Swaps at Hollywood Park, Suave has been freshened. On Tuesday McGee tightened him for the Travers, breezing him seven furlongs in 1:25 at Churchill Downs.

"He's on top of his game," he said.

Prior to running second in the Swaps, Suave had won the Grade 3 Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill Downs June 12.

McGee said he and the owners - Jan, Mace, and Samantha Siegel - had given consideration to running the horse in last week's West Virginia Derby, but chose to bypass that race and give him more time between races.

"It would have been four weeks, going from Churchill to Hollywood to West Virginia," he said.

Plans call for Suave to ship to Saratoga the Wednesday before the Travers. Pat Day has the mount, McGee said.

Honor in War back in training

Honor in War, a Grade 1 winner for McGee, is on the comeback trail. He left Churchill Downs earlier in the week for Arlington, where he can work on turf leading up to a race in late summer or early fall.

Honor in War is unraced since Kentucky Derby Day, when he finished fifth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve, a race he won in 2003. He popped a quarter crack in that race, which forced him to miss the Opening Verse Stakes late in the Churchill Downs meet.

McGee estimated that Honor in War is about a month away from a race. He is scheduled to breeze on grass Wednesday at Arlington.

Bejarano widening his territory

Steve Elzey, agent for leading jockey Rafael Bejarano, made the backstretch rounds Friday - not at Ellis Park or Churchill Downs, but at Saratoga.

Reached by telephone, he said he intends to have Bejarano ride three days at Saratoga before the end of the meet. Those days, along with a mount aboard Colonial Colony in the Aug. 22 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, should provide Bejarano with numerous stakes opportunities in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Bejarano continues to win races in bunches at Ellis Park. Wednesday he won four races, before being uncharacteristically blanked with six mounts Thursday. He has 54 wins from 207 mounts at Ellis Park. Bejarano, a 22-year-old native of Peru, has ridden 303 winners in 2004, the most in the country.

Elzey said the decision to ride at Ellis Park - rather than at Saratoga or Arlington - was the right choice. It has kept Bejarano in regular contact with Kentucky horsemen, yet it hasn't limited his weekend stakes business, which has mostly come out of town. Last week, he won the $600,000 West Virginia Derby aboard the Nick Zito-trained Sir Shackleton.

Bejarano will serve a suspension for careless riding, appealed since the end of the Churchill Downs meet, from Aug. 29 through Sept. 3, Elzey said.

Barring injury, Bejarano's chances of leading the nation in victories appear bright. Through Thursday, he holds a 72-win edge over jockey Ramon Dominguez, his closest pursuer. Bejarano is the seventh-leading rider in North America based on earnings. His mounts have made over $7 million.

Overnight handicaps popular

Overnight handicaps, a new addition to the racing scene this summer at Ellis Park, continue to attract deep, talented fields. Sunday's feature, a $38,000 overnight handicap at one mile on turf, drew a field of 10, plus one also-eligible.

Six stakes winners are in the body of the race, led by 122-pound highweight May Gator. She comes off a half-length victory over Two Dot Slew in a similar overnight handicap July 25. Jose Martinez Jr. rides for trainer Steve Flint.

Two-year-olds top next weekend

Two-year-olds headline the action next weekend at Ellis Park, with the running of the Anna M. Fisher Debutante Aug. 21 and the James C. Ellis Juvenile the following day.

The races, both $100,000 stakes at seven furlongs, attracted nominations primarily from Kentucky and Illinois. The Debutante drew 23 nominees, including Sweet Miss El, a winner of two of three starts. Twenty-five were nominated to the Juvenile, a race that Cactus Ridge won last year.

Ellis and Hoosier to overlap

Ellis Park, struggling to fill dirt races this meet, will face more competition for horses late in the meet. Hoosier Park opens its meet Sept. 2, creating a five-day overlap with Ellis Park. Both tracks run many dirt races for low-end claiming horses.

Turfway Park opens Wednesday, Sept. 8, two days after the conclusion of racing at Ellis Park on Sept. 6. Kentucky Downs, the all-turf racetrack in Franklin, Ky., will race on a Saturday, Monday, Tuesday schedule over two weeks from Sept. 18-28.