08/18/2006 11:00PM

Travers contenders work to beat rain

Bluegrass Cat, with exercise rider Manuel Alicea up, works five furlongs in 1:00.55 on Saturday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - With rain moving into Saratoga on Saturday and forecast to last into Sunday morning, several trainers moved workouts up a day for their Travers contenders.

Five of the seven horses expected to run in the $1 million Travers here Aug. 26 put in workouts Saturday morning at Saratoga and Churchill.

Bluegrass Cat, the Haskell winner who figures to be the second choice in the Travers behind Preakness and Jim Dandy winner Bernardini, worked five furlongs in 1:00.55 by himself after the renovation break. Under exercise rider Manuel Alicea, Bluegrass Cat clicked off fractions of 12.25 seconds, 24.11, 35.88, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.14.

"I thought he went extremely well, very similar to his work before the Haskell," Pletcher said. "He's come out of the race really well. He didn't seem to lose any weight, didn't lose any energy, looks great, moving well. He worked good, he's been galloping good. He's doing everything you want to see him do.

"But like I said before, anytime you come back off a big race and do another big race and you've only got 20 days in between and the competition is going to be extremely difficult, you're always concerned if you've had enough time to recover to their absolute peak level."

In the same set, Pletcher sent High Cotton through a five-furlong work that was done in company with Sterwins, a 3-year-old winner. High Cotton was clocked in a bullet 59.64 seconds, with a final quarter of 23.58, but exercise rider Kate Priest was urging him and even resorted to the whip at one point.

"He hasn't run since the Ohio Derby, so he needed a little more work," Pletcher said. "I thought it was a good work. He finished well with some encouragement. It was for him, with his style, a very good work."

High Cotton, a son of Dixie Union, has won three stakes at 1 1/16 miles and was beaten a neck by Deputy Glitters in the Ohio Derby at 1 1/8 miles. Pletcher said he is not as worried about High Cotton attempting 1 1/4 miles in the Travers as he is the step up in competition.

"This will be the toughest race that he's ever run, with Bernardini and Bluegrass Cat in there," Pletcher said.

Also working at Saratoga on Saturday were Dr. Pleasure, the third-place finisher in the Jim Dandy, who went six furlongs in 1:14.06 over the main track, and Hesanoldsalt, an allowance winner on July 31, who went four furlongs in 50.55 seconds over the Oklahoma training track.

Donna Ward, the assistant trainer to her husband, John, said she clocked Dr. Pleasure galloping out a mile in 1:43. She said she was happy with what she saw and hopes that Dr. Pleasure can overcome some of the immaturity he showed in the Jim Dandy.

"Dr. Pleasure got carried wide, and he was sort of like, 'Whoa, what do we do now?' " Ward said. "Once he got focused on a horse, he was closing fast. He only got beat a length for second."

Ward said that Cornelio Velasquez would ride Dr. Pleasure. Edgar Prado will ride Minister's Bid, the Jim Dandy runner-up, who was scheduled to work Sunday. Strong Contender worked five furlongs in 1:01.08 at Belmont Park on Saturday, but he is not expected to run in the Travers.

Hesanoldsalt, trained by Nick Zito, worked outside another horse on the training track. Hesanoldsalt figures to be one of the speed horses in the Jim Dandy.

At Churchill Downs on Saturday, West Virginia Derby winner Bright One worked five furlongs in 1:01 under exercise rider Faustino Orentez. Trainer Dale Romans said that, provided Bright One comes out of the work well, he will be flown to Saratoga on Monday.

Entries for the Travers will be taken on Wednesday morning. Barring anything happening to Bernardini or Bluegrass Cat, the field, with riders, should be: Bernardini (Javier Castellano), Bluegrass Cat (John Velazquez), Bright One, (Mark Guidry), Dr. Pleasure (Cornelio Velasquez), Hesanoldsalt (Eibar Coa), High Cotton (Garrett Gomez), and Minister's Bid (Edgar Prado).