08/16/2005 11:00PM

Victory Lap tests deep water

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Lone Star Park
Victory Lap, easily winning the Lone Star Oaks, will face stiffer competition in Friday's Lake Placid Handicap.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Last Saturday was a particularly good day for trainer Bobby Barbara. After winning two races on the Saratoga card, Barbara welcomed a very nice 3-year-old filly to his stable that night.

How nice Victory Lap is will be better known Friday when she runs against Ready's Gal and My Typhoon in the Grade 2, $150,000 Lake Placid Handicap at nine furlongs on the turf.

, a daughter of Touch Gold, has won five consecutive races, including a 14 1/4-length romp in last month's Lone Star Oaks. Her win streak began on March 2 at Gulfstream when she won a maiden claiming race for trainer Rusty Arnold. Victory Lap won another claiming race at Gulfstream, this time for trainer Wesley Ward, before being transferred to the Southwest-based trainer Cole Norman. Owner John Pucek moved her to Barbara's barn last weekend with the idea of running in some of the graded stakes in New York.

"She's a real classy filly,'' Barbara said Wednesday morning. "Being around her for four days, she has shown me a lot of class. This morning she was full of herself out there. If she has got the quality and belongs with this group, I don't think anything can stop her but herself.''

Meanwhile, Barbara is getting pretty excited about his 2-year-olds, and with good reason. Last Friday, Win McCool won a six-furlong maiden race by a half-length in her second start. She ran six furlongs in 1:11.44 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 88. On Saturday, Winning Minister won his maiden by three-quarters of a length. He ran six furlongs in 1:11.51 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 85.

"The filly needs more learning and more schooling; she's as talented as the best of them out there,'' Barbara said of Win McCool, a half-sister to graded-stakes winners Graeme Hall and Harmony Lodge. "She's a tremendously talented filly; she will show herself down the road. She had issues with her mind, little bit of this, little bit of that; she's worth all the time and the effort.''

Barbara is hopeful of making the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with Win McCool, but has not yet confirmed her next start.

Barbara hopes to make the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Winning Minister, who finished a disappointing third as the 3-5 favorite in his debut at Belmont Park before bouncing back last week.

"We had a lot of trouble with him in the gate the first time he ran,'' Barbara said. "Thanks to Bob Duncan and the crew at NYRA over the last couple of weeks, he has gotten to be a total professional. Richie [Migliore] said he was sleeping in the gate. He was a winner five jumps out of the gate."

Barbara said he would point both Winning Minister and Union Course, third in the Saratoga Special on July 28, to the Hopeful here on Aug. 27. Joe Sabine, who owns both colts, will decide which 2-year-old will run.

Scrappy T training toward fall return

Preakness runner-up Scrappy T on Wednesday had his most strenuous morning of exercise since arriving at Saratoga two weeks ago, galloping a mile in a two-minute clip over the Oklahoma training track, trainer Robert Bailes said.

Scrappy T hasn't run since clipping heels with Afleet Alex at the top of the stretch in the Preakness. Scrappy T went on to finish second in that race behind Afleet Alex, who gathered himself up and ran away to a 4 3/4-length victory.

Scrappy T was being pointed to a start on turf in the Virginia Derby, but an unsatisfactory work on the grass prompted his connections to nix that idea. Now, Bailes isn't so sure if it was Scrappy T's dislike for the turf or a "deep, deep bruise in his rear end'' that caused the poor work. Scrappy T has since undergone acupuncture and has been worked on by noted veterinarian Steve Allday and appears to be responding to treatment.

"Everything seems to be going in the right direction for us,'' Bailes said. "He never missed a day of training; we just did a lot of jogging to keep his muscles loose. We gave him a break without giving him a break, I guess you could say. His attitude is real good, but physically he's not as strong as I want right now.''

Bailes said he hopes to get Scrappy T back to the races sometime in September. The Jerome on Sept. 11, the Pegasus at The Meadowlands on Sept. 30, or the Super Derby at Louisiana Downs on Oct. 1 are possible spots.

Closing Argument unlikely for Travers

Kentucky Derby runner-up Closing Argument worked four furlongs in 50.24 seconds on Wednesday, only his second workout since his ninth-place finish in the Preakness. Though he is nominated to next weekend's Travers, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Closing Argument would only run in that spot if horses such as Roman Ruler or Flower Alley defected.

McLaughlin said a race such as the Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 5 or the Jerome at Belmont is more likely for his return.

McLaughlin gave Closing Argument about 10 days off after the Preakness and thereafter had to stop and start several times on the horse. Closing Argument had trouble with a splint bone and had some tightness behind. McLaughlin said he believes both are no longer issues.

"He looks fabulous - he has put on 75 pounds since the Preakness,'' McLaughlin said. "It has been a struggle to get back to the work tab, but he has had two works a week apart and we hope to get another one in next week.''

Mustanfar sent home for evaluation

McLaughlin reported that Mustanfar, his graded-stakes-winning turf horse, has not been traveling well in the mornings and has been sent home to Kentucky for further evaluation.

"He's not moving as well as we know he can, and we're having trouble figuring it out,'' McLaughlin said. "He's going to have a nuclear scan. It's one of those things where he could be back to us next week or in three months.''

Nine start, two finish steeplechase

Wednesday's second race, a steeplechase event, turned into a debacle when only two of the nine starters were able to finish the 2 1/16-mile allowance race.

Approaching the last of nine fences, Jazzitupgeorge and Seattle Band were in contention for the win when both fell, unseating their jockeys. Trailing horses Illusionary and Underbidder both unseated their riders as they had trouble navigating the final hurdle while trying to avoid the other falling horses. Earlier in the race, Thegooddieyoung fell over a fence, unseating Robert Massey. Western Fling and Whichi Coax were pulled up after poor jumps.

Amazingly, none of the horses or jockeys was injured in the race. Good Night Shirt won the race, while Thermostat, the 2-1 favorite, finished second. The show pool was divided between those two horses. The trifecta payoff was 5-4-all, and returned $80.

This race comes after an opening-day race in which three horses fell and two riders suffered injuries. After Wednesday's race, officials from the National Steeplechase Association went into defense mode.

"We take a lot of pride putting on quality racing; it's something that can happen and did,'' said Bill Gallo, director of racing for the NSA. "We ran nine races last year and we had one faller on the whole nine-race card. If you understand the game, it's part of the game.''

There were 75 starters in nine steeplechase races last year. Only one horse fell, but 13 others failed to finish. This year, there have been 55 starters in six steeplechase races. Sixteen failed to finish, including nine fallers.

Officials from the New York Racing Association and the NSA get together at the end of every meet to discuss future meets. In 2001, NYRA cut back the number of jump races from 12 to nine.

"We will talk with the NSA and come up with what we think is a suitable plan moving forward,'' said Bill Nader, senior vice president for NYRA.