07/17/2005 11:00PM

Trainer race going down to the wire

Smuggler (left), beating Spun Sugar in the Mother Goose, will run in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The final week at Belmont Park starts Wednesday with one title settled and another very much up for grabs.

Edgar Prado will be a runaway winner among the jockeys, with a 77-52 lead over Eibar Coa entering Wednesday's races.

It's a much different story among the trainers. Bill Mott holds a 20-19 lead over Juan Rodriguez, who is filling in for the suspended Richard Dutrow Jr., and Todd Pletcher. Mike Hushion and Christophe Clement, with 17 wins each, still have a shot.

A pair of stakes will be run on the final weekend of the meet: the Grade 1, $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks on Saturday and the $100,000-added Evan Shipman Handicap for New York-breds on Sunday.

CCA Oaks comes up tough

At 1 1/4 miles, the Coaching Club American Oaks is the last and longest race of the New York filly triple crown series, which also includes the Acorn and the Mother Goose.

Trainer Rick Violette said he was hoping the race wouldn't come up too tough for Capitulation's graded stakes debut. Unfortunately for Violette, stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes lists Kentucky Oaks winner Summerly, Mother Goose winner Smuggler, and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan winner Spun Sugar as likely runners.

"We're hedging a little bit," Violette said. "It's coming up a tougher race than it usually does.

"My filly is doing wonderfully. We'll keep it as a serious option, but I'd like to see a couple of defections. I don't want to run for fourth money. I'd like to see it a little bit softer."

A welcome class drop for Chowder's First

Chowder's First gets major class relief in the 1 1/16-mile Evan Shipman after finishing up the track last time out in Belmont's Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap on June 11.

"It was probably an ambitious move," said trainer Phil Serpe. "He'd been doing good, and it looked like an opportunity to take a shot. He wound up stuck down inside, where he doesn't like to be."

The Evan Shipman should be a better fit for Chowder's First, who won the Kings Point Handicap for statebreds in his season debut.

Serpe said the time off since the Brooklyn should also help.

"He tends to run pretty good fresh," he said. "He's training well, but he's not too keen on the super humid weather. Hopefully it won't be 150 degrees next Sunday."

Other likely runners include Boundary Bay, Mr. Determined, Rogue Agent, Seeking the Glory, Stellianos, and West Virginia.

Macaw retired after condylar fracture

Macaw suffered a condylar fracture of the left front leg in Saturday's Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap on Saturday at Belmont and will be retired.

A 6-year-old gelding, Macaw was eased in the stretch and left the track in the equine ambulance. He will undergo surgery to repair the damage.

"These are part of the things that happen in the game," said trainer Angel Penna Jr. "It's happened before, but you never get used to it."

Penna said he is optimistic that Macaw will "eventually be a happy horse jumping around the fields," but was sorry to see Macaw's career come to a premature end. Macaw's final complete race was the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on June 11, when Macaw finished 11th, beaten 6 1/4 lengths.

"He had very little shot in that race considering the mile-and-a-quarter distance and the field and the hard turf that he does not like," Penna said of the Manhattan. "The poor guy got beat only six lengths for the whole money.

"I have had better horses, but I have not had in many years such a brave horse like this one was. The heart of this animal is unbelievable. The injury is bad but if it had been worse, I would have been devastated."

Macaw finished with a record of 5-7-3 in 35 starts and earnings of $795,910.

* The 25th annual Saratoga open house takes place Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free event comes three days before the season kicks off and offers a wide range of activities and events, including two non-betting steeplechase contests that take place at 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Other attractions include pony rides, clowns, mini-golf, musical acts, a mascot race, and an exhibition by the Long Island Drill Team.