08/05/2002 12:00AM

These stars will be heard from again


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Two outstanding performances here over the weekend promise to cast long shadows during the months ahead.

Left Bank couldn't have been better in the $750,000 Whitney Handicap. Competing in one of the strongest handicap fields of the season, he stalked a lively pace, took command in the upper stretch, and held the competition safe to win with authority by 1 1/4 lengths. Racing the nine furlongs in 1:47.04, he equaled the track record set 28 years ago in the Whitney by Tri Jet.

Street Cry, coming off victories in the Dubai World Cup and the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, and widely regarded as one of the best horses in training, finished second. Lido Palace, who won the Whitney last summer and then confirmed his form in the Woodward Stakes, was third, while Macho Uno, winner of the Massachusetts Handicap, was fourth.

"It seems to me Left Bank deserves consideration for top honors in any ranking of the division," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "The pace was realistic [six furlongs in 1:09.36], and the major players were there. One of the most satisfying aspects was the way he relaxed off the pace. We were concerned about the effect Saint Verre's speed might have on the race, but Left Bank dealt with it.

"He's now set or equaled track records at seven furlongs and nine furlongs and is making a compelling case for himself as a prospective champion."

Everyone knew that Left Bank has quality speed. His seven furlongs in 1:20.17 to win the Tom Fool at Belmont last month by more than six lengths speaks for itself. It wasn't known if Left Bank could relax off the pace and stay middle distances. The Whitney says he can and now Pletcher is thinking about the nine-furlong Woodward next month to consolidate his recent gains.

The biggest winner of the weekend is Michael Tabor, who gambled $600,000 on Demi O'Byrne's keen eye and acknowledged judgment that a French Deputy colt at the Calder 2-year-old sales of 1999 was worth the money. Left Bank has now earned $1.4 million, and if he eventually proves that 1 1/4 miles is within his scope, the opportunities are limitless.

The fact is that Tabor already has the stallion prospect he has been seeking to stand at stud with his Kentucky Derby winner, Thunder Gulch. With his celebrated turn of foot and his performance over a distance of ground against top competition, Left Bank could go home at any time and be assured of a warm welcome by breeders seeking the qualities he exudes.

Medaglia d'Oro was magnificent

The second glittering performance of another weekend of fine racing was turned in by Medaglia d'Oro in capturing Sunday's $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes for 3-year-olds by almost 14 lengths.

An unfortunate incident in the upper stretch that resulted in the unseating of jockey Richard Migliore aboard Iron Deputy compromised, to some extent, the main challenge to the winning favorite. But Medaglia d'Oro wasn't going to be caught under any circumstances. He was sharp; a standout in a moderate field. Now he should be a solid favorite for the $1 million Travers on Aug. 24.

"I just hope the Jim Dandy didn't take too much out of him," trainer Bobby Frankel said Monday morning. "I don't think it did, but you never know.

"The key to his fine form in the Jim Dandy, as I see it, was the rest he had coming up to the race. He hadn't started since the Belmont Stakes. I rushed him a bit last spring after his purchase to get ready for the Kentucky Derby."

Medaglia d'Oro did well in the Derby considering his eventful start. He was bumped leaving the gate, lost his position, and withstood a long drive to gamely finish fourth.

He has natural speed and also has ability, which makes him a strong figure in the 3-year-old ranks, particularly with his acquisition of Jerry Bailey as his rider.

Frankel saw the telecast of Sunday's Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, won easily by War Emblem, the Derby and Preakness winner. Frankel said he was impressed by War Emblem's performance and is hopeful he has a worthwhile rival for War Emblem in Medaglia d'Oro when the two colts are expected to meet for top honors in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park.