08/11/2002 11:00PM

Sword Dancer one for books

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - The Test Stakes was memorable but Saturday's $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational was unforgettable.

In the seven-furlong Test, You and Carson Hollow dueled through the stretch, with You prevailing by a nose in a thriller that surely was going to be the competitive highlight of an outstanding meeting.

But the Sword Dancer, at 1 1/2 miles, may have been even more dramatic. Apparently beaten in midstretch, the 7-year-old With Anticipation angled outside of four horses and wore down the favored Denon in the last jump to score by a nose. The 33,342 on hand hailed his return with a warm ovation, and then produced another when announcer Tom Durkin cited Pat Day for having passed the retired Chris McCarron as the leading money-winning jockey, with purses of $264,580,725.

In winning his second consecutive Sword Dancer, With Anticipation gave the finest performance of a distinguished career. Stalking the leaders through a realistic pace, he was always within striking distance. Denon, the Charles Whittingham winner, had an ideal trip, and when he spurted at the furlong pole to take command, the Sword Dancer looked to be his. But the determined With Anticipation wanted it more, and willed himself forward with impressive strides to nip Denon on the winning post.

"I wasn't sure he'd won it and it was a great feeling when they put his number up," trainer Jonathan Sheppard said Monday morning. "The ground was hard from lack of rain and was stinging him, which is why he wasn't extending himself early in the race. But he dug down deep when Pat called on him and he did what he had to do.

"Now we're going to concentrate on the Breeders' Cup Turf. Chances are he'll run in either the Man o' War or Turf Classic at Belmont as a tune-up. The Man o' War comes early, on

Sept. 7. The Turf Classic is run closer to the Breeders' Cup, on Sept. 29. We'll have to think that one through, to make the right choice."

Orientate flaunts his talent

The racing at Saratoga, year in and year out, is outstanding, but the quality this summer seems higher than usual. There have been many impressive achievements, and one of the finest races was that of Orientate in winning Sunday's $200,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at six furlongs.

An odds-on favorite, the 4-year-old Orientate was coming off smashing victories in the Aristides at Churchill Downs and the Smile Sprint at Calder.

But he never looked better than in the Vanderbilt, bulleting out of the gate and taking the lead with an authority that drew a roar from the large crowd, announced at 62,672 and attracted at least in part by a Saratoga cap promotion.

Once clear, Orientate, under Jerry Bailey, maintained a lively pace, getting the half-mile in 45.80 seconds. The hard-hitting Say Florida Sandy, a winner of more than $1.9 million, challenged through the final furlong but could not catch the favorite, a decisive winner.

Orientate, who looks like one the best sprinters in the country, ran in the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic last fall.

"We had three fine sprinters in the stable, including Yonaguska and Snow Ridge," trainer Wayne Lukas said. "Orientate is a very versatile individual, so we ran him at different distances until this spring. We're zeroing in on the Breeders' Cup Sprint but we may try him at a mile again later this fall."

Orientate is by Mt. Livermore out of the Cox's Ridge mare Dream Team. Lukas trained both Mt. Livermore and Dream Team, and acting for Robert and Beverly Lewis did not hesitate when Orientate stepped into the Keeneland yearling sales ring. Orientate was purchased for $250,000. He has earned just under $1 million and can pass that milestone in his next start, which will be the $250,000 Forego Handicap, to be run here Sept. 1.