08/24/2004 11:00PM

Taxing effort in Hopeful takes toll on Devils Disciple

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Devils Disciple (right), caught at the wire by Afleet Alex in the Hopeful, will need surgery on his left knee.

MIAMI - Devils Disciple gave the undefeated juvenile sensation Afleet Alex the first real test of his career before dropping a tough neck decision in Saturday's Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes. He also paid the price for his effort.

Trainer Joe Waunsch said Devils Disciple did not come out of the race well and will require surgery to remove chips from his left knee. Waunsch had been hoping to use the Hopeful as a springboard to the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland in early October.

"Obviously this is a major disappointment," Waunsch said while en route to Ocala on Wednesday morning to confer with the surgeons. "It's hard to say how long he'll be out, but I'd guess this will probably mean six to eight months. But I'm confident he'll be back again next season."

Devils Disciple turned in a gallant effort in the Hopeful. After breaking a step slowly from the rail, he contested an extremely fast pace with Flamenco, put away that rival, and then succumbed to Afleet Alex in the closing strides.

"I think the post beat me," said Waunsch. "Once he was down in there he was committed to the inside and committed to the lead because he couldn't give up his position. He never got a breather the entire race. If he had an outside post he could have been given a little chance to relax, and I think the outcome might have been different."

Devil's Disciple closes out his 2-year-old campaign with three victories, including a pair of local stakes. He never finished worse than second in five starts, and earned over $160,000 for owner John Somers.

Adobe Gold challenges older horses

Trainer Marty Wolfson could have kept Adobe Gold on the grass, where she would have been among the favorites in last Sunday's Aspidistra Handicap. Instead, Wolfson opted to scratch her after finding a much softer spot in Friday's $40,000 Miss Medallion Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile overnight stakes to be decided under allowance conditions over the main track.

Adobe Gold has won her last two starts, the Halo America and Mia's Hope stakes, by a combined 12 lengths. She will take on older horses for the first time in stakes competition in the Miss Medallion, but still figures to be the odds-on favorite.

"I think she's good enough right now to handle older mares," said Wolfson.

Adobe Gold's stiffest competition in the Miss Medallion could come from stablemate Chatter Chatter, who was once the local leader of her division. Chatter Chatter figures to improve in her third start on the comeback trail since being sidelined with an injury at the conclusion of her 2-year-old campaign.

The best of the older runners in the Miss Medallion is Chase Gap, a 5-year-old who comes off a near miss behind the 3-5 Secret Request in the Nancys Glitter Handicap on July 17. Now trained by Bill White, Chase Gap spent the first six months of the season with trainer Todd Pletcher but could do no better than three second-place finishes against second-level allowance company, both at Gulfstream and Aqueduct. Chase Gap is winless since capturing her 3-year-old finale in December 2002.

Also in the lineup are Najibes Acre, who has chased Adobe Gold home in each of their last two meetings, Sniffles, Never Fail, Marnesia Light, Sierra Lady, Easy Lassie, and Tuscany Light.

* A field of 10 3-year-olds has been entered for Saturday's $75,000 Needles Stakes, which is scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the grass. Wire Bound, an easy winner of the Simply Majestic Stakes earlier in the meet, tops the group, which also includes Cervelo, Gin Rummy Champ, Mister Fotis, and Nightmare Affair.

* Jockey Ruben Rodriguez and trainer Romeo King teamed up to win the first race of their respective careers Sunday, when they captured the 11th race with longshot Miss Sanata. King recently took out his trainer's license. Rodriguez, 22, is a product of Puerto Rico's national jockey school.