08/15/2008 11:00PM

Tale of Ekati ready this time, Tagg says


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Trainer Barclay Tagg knew that Tale of Ekati was going into the Jim Dandy a bit short, so it came as no surprise to him when the horse tired to fourth despite making the lead turning for home.

But with that race under his belt and a strong six-furlong move over the track on Saturday, Tagg is feeling better about things entering Saturday's $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

"He was a little bit short and I think the race probably moved him forward," Tagg said after Tale of Ekati breezed six furlongs in 1:13.60. "We're going to go, see what happens. I haven't looked at the numbers or anything, but I wouldn't see why he wouldn't fit in there."

A field of 11 is expected for the Travers when entries are made and post positions assigned on Wednesday. Tale of Ekati will be one of just three Grade 1 winners in the field, having won the Wood Memorial. He finished fourth behind Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby and was sixth in the Belmont Stakes, a race in which he got stepped on and had part of his foot torn off.

"He got hurt, and I don't think it was going into the first turn, I think it was going into the last turn," Tagg said. "Somebody did it and ripped his heel off, and he just stopped running after that. There was blood everywhere and you had a big chunk out of his foot. He healed up good and he's fine now."

Saturday's work was done immediately following the renovation break. With Kristen Troxell up, Tale of Ekati went in fractions of 12.88 seconds, 24.80, 36.41, and 48.29, and he galloped out seven furlongs in 1:28.16.

"I'm happy with him right now," Tagg said. "Kristen said he's good - that's all that counts."

Edgar Prado will ride Tale of Ekati in the Travers.

Macho Again gets his work in

After having a workout canceled on Friday due to colic-like symptoms, Macho Again went to the Oklahoma training track on Saturday for a half-mile breeze in 50.16 seconds under exercise rider Ken Bourque. Track clockers caught his final quarter in 24.28 seconds.

In addition to being uncomfortable on Friday, Macho Again also got loose for a few minutes in his stable area and suffered a small cut above his right eye. Saturday, Macho Again was back on his game, posing for several photographers following the breeze.

"Everything went good," trainer Dallas Stewart said. "I got to thinking about it [Friday], we need to keep him on schedule. We got lucky nothing bad happened yesterday; it's the horse business, things happen. He rested good last night, he ate good, he had good energy this morning, so we worked him."

Country Star returns in allowance

The multiple Grade 1 winner Country Star returns to the races Monday in a second-level allowance race carded as the seventh at one mile on the inner turf course. It will be Country Star's first start since she finished sixth in the Kentucky Oaks on May 2.

Trainer Bobby Frankel said Country Star had tried to bear out in both the Ashland - where she was fifth - and the Kentucky Oaks, and thus was sent to owner Robert McNair's Stonerside Farm for a freshening.

Frankel will equip Country Star with a different type of bit on Monday to give the rider more control of the filly. Frankel had been pointing her to a second-level allowance at seven furlongs on dirt, but that race failed to fill.

After finishing second to Backseat Rhythm in her only start on turf when she was 2, Country Star won the Grade 1 Alcibiades and the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet, both run on synthetic surfaces.

Javier Castellano will ride Country Star from post 8 in a 10-horse field.

Gray records first career victory

Liz Gray, a longtime assistant to trainer Dale Romans, left the racing game late last year to open a dog-boarding business. But she didn't stay away long.

Two months ago, the 46-year-old Gray got her trainer's license, and on Saturday she recorded her first winner when Obsequious, a 2-year-old daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus, won her debut by 1 3/4 lengths. Obsequious was purchased for $70,000 by owner Frank O'Connor at the Fasig-Tipton Timonium sale of 2-year-olds in training.

It was just the second starter for Gray, whose first runner, Adventurous Spirit, finished last on July 26 at Delaware Park.

"I missed it," said Gray, explaining her return to racing. "Grass isn't always greener on the other side."

Gray, who worked for Romans for 13 years, said she has 10 horses, eight of which are 2-year-olds. She hopes to run a couple of more horses next weekend, including Adventurous Spirit and Sorta Tricky, a 4-year-old New York-bred sprinter who won at this meet last year for Romans.

* Indian Blessing, the Grade 1 Test winner, worked four furlongs in 47.98 seconds Saturday morning over the main track. Trainer Bob Baffert has not finalized plans for his filly's next start, though he did not even nominate to next weekend's Grade 1 Ballerina.

* Commentator, the Grade 1 Whitney winner, worked four furlongs in 50.45 seconds over the Oklahoma training track. He is being pointed to the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs on Sept. 20.