08/22/2007 11:00PM

Sugar Shake back from layoff

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Sugar Shake hasn't run since a second-place finish in the Shuvee May 19.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Sugar Shake will try to jump-start what once looked like a promising 4-year-old campaign when she returns to the races in Friday's Grade 1, $400,000 Personal Ensign Handicap at Saratoga.

Sugar Shake, trained by Bobby Frankel, will face five rivals, including the Todd Pletcher-duo of Indian Vale and Unbridled Belle and the Allen Jerkens pair of Teammate and Miss Shop. Lila Paige completes the field.

Sugar Shake began the year with victories in the Grade 2 El Encino and Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap at Santa Anita. Infirmities and inclement weather have limited her to just one start since February.

Frankel was pointing Sugar Shake to the Santa Margarita Handicap in early March, but she developed a fever the week of the race. Sugar Shake was entered in the Louisville Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs in early May, but scratched due to a sloppy track, a surface over which Sugar Shake ran the worst race of her career.

Sugar Shake made it back to the races in the Grade 2 Shuvee Handicap at Belmont on May 19. She dueled with Teammate all the way around the track, losing a half-length decision to that rival in the one-turn mile race.

"She broke from the 1-hole, we had to rush out of there, and she hadn't been out in three months," said Frankel, explaining the Shuvee defeat.

Frankel was pointing Sugar Shake to the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap in June, but had to stop on the filly due to a puffy ankle.

"She never traveled bad, I just wanted to calm it down," Frankel said. "She's training good. The only thing I'm worried about is the detention barn. She is a little high strung."

All horses that race at New York Racing Association tracks must report to a security barn six hours before they are to race.

Frankel is not worried about Sugar Shake's ability to get the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Personal Ensign. The only time she ran that distance, Sugar Shake was beaten 22 3/4 lengths in last year's Coaching Club American Oaks, but Frankel believes that was more because of a wet track than her inability to get the distance.

Breaking from the rail under Rafael Bejarano, Sugar Shake figures to be sent away from the gate. She may have to deal with pace pressure from Teammate, who breaks from post 4 under Cornelio Velasquez. Teammate set the pace in last year's Alabama before being caught late by Pine Island.

Indian Vale, who breaks from post 6 under John Velazquez, also figures to be in close proximity to the pace. Indian Vale has won 7 of 11 career starts, including two allowance races over this track in the summer 2005. She won the Grade 3 Next Move and Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicaps this year, but is coming off a bad fifth-place finish in the Delaware Handicap as the 4-5 favorite.

"We're going to go with the excuse that everybody goes with when they don't run well at Delaware, and that is she didn't like the surface," Pletcher said. "She had a good trip, she just didn't have a response when needed. She seemed to come back fine. She's shown an affinity for this Saratoga track before, she worked well, and is doing well. She should be in a position to rebound."

Unbridled Belle, who won the Delaware Handicap, may be overlooked because people will view her as a Delaware Park horse-for-course. She is 3 for 4 at Delaware, 1 for 8 elsewhere.

"That's what we have to find out now whether she's as good at other tracks as she is at Delaware Park," Pletcher said. "Her race the other day was exceptional. Hopefully, it's because she's improved this year and not have anything to do with Delaware."

Lila Paige, a former claimer, is coming off a well-beaten second to Unbridled Belle in the Delaware Handicap. Miss Shop was second to Ginger Punch in the Grade 1 Go for Wand here on July 28.