08/07/2010 2:23PM

Things improving for Benzel at Saratoga

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Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Seth Benzel has a stable of 42 head and has saddled three winners so far at this year’s Saratoga meet.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Saratoga meet has gotten better for trainer Seth Benzel. It could not have gotten much worse.

The first weekend of the meet, Giant Legacy, a promising 2-year-old trained by Benzel, suffered fatal injuries shortly after completing what would have been his final workout in preparation for his debut, which likely would have come on Saturday, on the undercard for the Whitney Handicap.

Since then, though, Benzel has won three races, and might very well have won a fourth had the stewards taken down Pelican Lake and moved up Benzel’s Rani Baba, following a bumping incident in Friday’s fifth race in which Pelican Bay crashed into She Wears the Best, who finished fourth. Rani Baba, clear of the incident, finished second. No change was made.

“For the meet to start off the way it did was unfortunate,” Benzel said outside his Saratoga barn on Saturday morning. “But it seemed that everybody was very understanding. People in the business, casual fans, everywhere I went, people said they were sorry. It’s nice to have people give respect for that situation.

“You move on, and lucky enough, we’ve done well. It’s important to have a good meet here. It couldn’t be bigger for a small outfit that’s only in its second year.”

Even though Benzel would have been the beneficiary of a disqualification in Friday’s fifth race, he said he agreed with the stewards’ decision to leave the result stand. The Equibase chart said that Pelican Lake, under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, “clobbered” She Wears the Best, “knocking that rival three paths to the outside.”

“I thought it was possible we’d get put up, but I think the stewards made the right decision,” Benzel said. “It’s a split-second decision for the rider. I assume .”

Benzel, a former assistant to both Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher, has 42 horses in his care. One of them is The Gaillimh Girl, who starts on Monday in the $70,000 Waya Stakes for long-distance female turf horses. The Gaillimh Girl is making only her second start for Benzel, and just her sixth start overall. She was fifth was the favorite in the Rooney Memorial at Delaware in her last start on June 19.

“She’s got a lot of ability. She’s advancing quickly. But she needs racing experience, opportunities to grow up and mature,” Benzel said. “Some of the others in the race have a little edge on her. We’ll try to make it up with the talent she’s shown to this point.”

Bearpath to get Borel for stakes

Bearpath, beaten two lengths by Gio Ponti in the Man o’ War at Belmont Park last month, completed preparations for his start in next Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Invitational with a five-furlong workout in 1:01.39 over Saratoga’s main track Saturday.

According to trainer Ian Wilkes, Bearpath went his first quarter in 26 seconds and got his last three furlongs in 35.39. Calvin Borel was aboard for the work and will ride Bearpath in the Sword Dancer.

“The horse is fit and ready; I was looking for a work done the right way and I got it,” Wilkes said. “He finished up strong.”

Bearpath raced on the inside part of the course in the Man o’ War and was further back off a slow pace than Wilkes would have preferred under apprentice Frederic Lenclud.

“Frederic got stuck in a couple of places where maybe he shouldn’t have been in that position,” Wilkes said.

Bearpath is a two-time winner at the Sword Dancer distance of 1 1/2 miles, including a victory in the Grade 3 Pan American at Gulfstream in March.

“I think he’s just starting to get good, starting to mature,” Wilkes said.

Others pointing to the Sword Dancer include Expansion, Grand Couturier, Interpatation, Spice Route, Take the Points, Telling, and Grassy. Trainer Neil Drysdale is considering either Marlang or Marsh Side.

Mine that Bird half-brother wins

Brother Bird, a half-brother to Mine That Bird, won his second straight race when capturing Saturday’s opener, a seven-furlong allowance.

Brother Bird, 3, and Mine That Bird, the 2009 Kentucky Derby winner, are both out of the Smart Strike mare Mining My Own. Brother Bird, owned by Dogwood Stable, was purchased for $485,000 as a 2-year-old in training at Timonium, just two days after Mine That Bird finished second in the Preakness Stakes. Brother Bird, sired by Yonaguska, lost his first four races and then defeated maidens at Belmont Park in his start prior to Saturday.

“He’s finally matured a little bit, and we’ve been able to get a steady series of races out of him,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher added, joking, “There’s enormous pressure training the half-brother to a Derby winner.”

Wall Street Wonder on way back

Wall Street Wonder has struggled with the heat this summer, which is why trainer John Terranova has not been targeting a specific race for the Grade 3 stakes-winning sprinter. But Saturday morning, with the temperature in the mid 50s, Terranova took the opportunity to breeze the colt, and he zipped five furlongs in 1:00.95 in company with the colt E Knows Why over the Oklahoma training track.

Wall Street Wonder started two lengths behind and finished a length in front under exercise rider Simon Harris. Wall Street Wonder, who won the Grade 3 Toboggan in March as part of a three-race winning streak, has not raced since finishing last in the Churchill Downs Handicap in the slop on Kentucky Derby Day.

“He’s starting to feel great, we’re waiting it out,” Terranova said. “We’re going nice and steady, keeping him healthy. He’s certainly going forward again. We’re not far away. If we get nice weather like this, he’s probably going to continue to thrive.”

Later in the morning, the news wasn’t so good out of the Terranova barn. Call Me Swift, an unraced 2-year-old filly by Bernardini that the barn had high hopes for, suffered a condylar fracture of her right foreleg after a workout over the Oklahoma training track. She is expected to undergo surgery at Patty Hogan’s equine clinic in New Jersey.

Winslow Homer recovering

Winslow Homer, who suffered a fractured cannon bone in his left foreleg after winning the Curlin Stakes by nine lengths on Aug. 1, is convalescing at The Vinery in Kentucky following surgery to repair the injury Tuesday.

Trainer Tony Dutrow said Dr. Larry Bramlage, who performed the surgery, said the prognosis is good for Winslow Homer to return to the races next year.

“He feels we’ll have the same horse,” Dutrow said. “These things do very well. We just need him to stay together.”

* Interactif worked four furlongs in 50.21 seconds Saturday morning in company with the 2-year-old colt Heisman. Interactif, runner-up to Paddy O’Prado in the Virginia Derby last out, is slated to run in Friday’s Grade 2, $150,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes.

* Vineyard Haven, prepping for the Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 4, worked three furlongs in 37 seconds Saturday morning. Vineyard Haven is coming off a 1 3/4-length victory in the James Marvin Stakes here on opening day.

– additional reporting by David Grening