06/08/2003 11:00PM

Test, Alabama next on agenda


ELMONT, N.Y. - After becoming only the 10th filly to win the Kentucky Oaks and Acorn, Bird Town will attempt to pull off another Grade 1 double this summer at Saratoga.

Trainer Nick Zito said Bird Town will most likely make her next start in the Grade 1 Test Stakes on July 28 at Saratoga. Bird Town will use that race as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 16, which Zito has previously stated is his and owner Marylou Whitney's major objective of the summer.

Since 1928, only 12 fillies have won both the seven-furlong Test and the 10-furlong Alabama, the last to do it being November Snow in 1992. Last year, You won the Test, but finished third in the Alabama.

Though there is a 50-day break from the Acorn to the Test, Zito points out that Bird Town had 46 days between a powerful victory in the Charon Stakes at Gulfstream and a second-place finish to My Boston Gal in the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland.

"She galloped out 10 times stronger than My Boston Gal, and with that foundation she ran the best race of her life in the Kentucky Oaks," Zito said. "The race Marylou Whitney wants to win is the Alabama and that's the race Nick Zito wants to win too."

Another reason Zito wants to skip the Mother Goose on June 28 is the fact he would prefer to run Bird Town around two turns going long. The Mother Goose is a one-turn, nine-furlong race.

"I think the two turns is much better when she's got to go a distance because she gets to relax," said Zito, who shipped Bird Town back to Saratoga on Monday. "Winning the Oaks coming from behind and winning the Acorn on the lead is a great thing, and to do it with a homebred is obviously real special."

The Test will feature a rematch between Bird Town and Acorn runner-up, Lady Tak, who fell a head short after encountering some trouble on the backstretch. Final Round, who finished third in the Acorn, is possible for either the Mother Goose or Test, trainer Rusty Arnold said.

Shug stumped by Storm Flag Flying

Other than noticing some filling in her left hind pastern that he says is "no big deal," trainer Shug McGaughey said he isn't sure what is wrong with Storm Flag Flying, last year's 2-year-old champion filly who finished a dull sixth in the Acorn, 11 lengths behind Bird Town.

McGaughey said jockey John Velazquez told him Storm Flag Flying warmed up great and broke well, but said Velazquez told him he was out of horse a half-mile into the race. Storm Flag Flying is now 0 for 2 this year after winning all four of her starts at 2.

"She's just struggling with something right now and I don't know what it is," McGaughey said. "I'll figure it out."

McGaughey said Storm Flag Flying was expected to return to the track on Tuesday morning. While McGaughey would like to run her in the Mother Goose, he won't commit to any race until he sees how the filly trains.

"She's trained fine," McGaughey said. "She's going to have to train spectacular one of these days, then I'll find a spot for her. I'm tired of giving her the benefit of the doubt. She's going to have to give me the benefit of the doubt. It's going to have to be 'Hey, here we go.' "

Strong Hope Dwyer-bound

Todd Pletcher may have struck out with his 3-year-olds for the spring classics, but he may be back in the game for the summer with Strong Hope. A son of Grand Slam out of the unraced Deputy Minister mare Shining Through, Strong Hope won a second-level allowance race by 1 3/4 lengths Saturday, his third straight victory.

Strong Hope covered the mile in 1:35.92 over a wet track labeled good and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 100, a career best.

Strong Hope, a $1.7 million yearling purchase by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, will most likely make his stakes debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Dwyer on July 6, Pletcher said.

"Obviously, he's getting better each time he runs," Pletcher said. "It's pretty hard to go maiden, one-other-than, two-other than like that. We always thought he was a nice horse. With two mile races under his belt, the Dwyer would make sense. If he handled that step we'd look at the Jim Dandy."

The Dwyer is run at 1 1/16 miles. The Jim Dandy, run Aug. 3 at Saratoga, is nine furlongs.

One of Pletcher's 3-year-olds from the spring, Hutcheson Stakes winner Lion Tamer, worked four furlongs in 50.71 Saturday over Belmont's training track. It is uncertain where Lion Tamer would run next. Lion Tamer finished sixth in the Blue Grass in his last start.

Volponi finishes Brooklyn preparations

Volponi, the Breeders' Cup Classic winner, worked five furlongs in 59.80 seconds Monday over a "good" Belmont main track, his final work before Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap.

Under Jose Santos, Volponi was timed in fractions of 11.40 seconds, 22.80, 34.60, and was timed galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.

"He was eager," trainer Phil Johnson said. "I told [Santos] I don't care how you do it, but I want to go five-eighths in a minute. [Volponi] came back, drank a couple of buckets of water, and cooled out fine."

Volponi was one of four horses assigned 122 pounds for the Brooklyn, run at nine furlongs. Other assigned that weight include probable starters Harlan's Holiday and Evening Attire. Mineshaft, also assigned 122, is scheduled to run in Saturday's Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Others expected to run in the Brooklyn are Saarland (115), El Gran Papa (113), Iron Deputy (112) and possibly Puzzlement (112). Abreeze (115) would run if the track were wet.

Harlan's Holiday, the Donn Handicap winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.02 on the main track Saturday. Iron Deputy covered six furlongs in 1:12.06 Saturday over a fast main track. Saarland, the Metropolitan Handicap runner-up, went a half-mile in 49.02 seconds Sunday over a sloppy main track.

Zito entry heads Wednesday feature

Crimson Hero, who was beaten a nose by Strong Hope in a May 14 allowance race, and Silent Fred make up a formidable Nick Zito-trained entry that heads Wednesday's featured allowance race for horses that have never won two races.

Both Zito colts are 4-year-olds that have not won since their 2-year-old seasons. At 3, Crimson Hero finished second in the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes. Silent Fred finished third in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes as a 2-year-old, but has yet to regain his form after missing about a year with a foot injury.

Decoder, a son of Dehere trained by James Bond, won an off-the-turf maiden race by 10 lengths in the slop going the nine-furlong distance of Wednesday's race. He figures to work out a good stalking trip under Edgar Prado.

Trustee Man, trained by Stan Hough, is another coming off a solid maiden win, but move prove nine furlongs is within his scope. Blue Boat, a maiden winner on turf, makes his dirt debut for trainer Bobby Frankel. Blue Boat is by Gulch and is a half-brother to Mizzen Mast, who won the Grade 1 Malibu and Grade 2 Strub on dirt.