08/20/2008 11:00PM

Weaver hopes to keep hot streak alive


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Very quietly, trainer George Weaver has been on a nice little run the last seven weeks.

After winning with 4 of his last 5 starters at the Belmont meet, Weaver has won with 5 of 20 runners at Saratoga, a combined win percentage of 36 (9 for 25) on this circuit. At Saratoga, he has also 5 seconds and 3 thirds.

"We're pretty excited; even the horses that haven't won have all run as well as we could expect," said Weaver, a former assistant to trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Todd Pletcher. "We are delighted; we put a lot into what we do. We were slow early on in the year; our numbers were down as far as runners. Luckily things started coming together at the right time."

Weaver has three horses entered on Saturday, though one is buried on the also-eligible list. In the fifth, Weaver runs Rogue Victory in a turf maiden race. The colt, whose dam is a sister to Volponi, ran a good second when Weaver added blinkers last out.

In the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap, Weaver sends out Drum Major, who finished third in this race and second in the Fourstardave here last year. Drum Major has not run since last year's Bernard Baruch due to a suspensory injury.

"It wasn't bad, but soft tissue [injuries] take a long time to heal," Weaver said. "That's why he had time off. He's sound and doing well."

Weaver said he had hoped to get an allowance race into Drum Major before the Bernard Baruch, but he couldn't get one to fill.

"We've had some stop and go with him since he's come back," Weaver said. "He's sound as he's ever been. It's time to get back to work."

Weaver said two horses he's looking forward to running again are Thou Swell, a 3-year-old colt who ran second in the Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes, and Miss Challenge, a 3-year-old filly who won a first-level allowance race here on Aug. 16. Thou Swell could run back in the Grade 3, $100,000 Saranac here on Aug. 31.

Wait a While repeats in Ballston Spa

Wait a While isn't getting older, she's getting faster.

Rebounding from a seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes last month, the 5-year-old Wait a While took over from pacesetting Sharp Susan in upper stretch and outfinished longshot Carriage Trail to win the Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa Handicap by one length at Saratoga on Thursday. Carriage Trail finished second by 1 1/2 lengths over Rutherienne.

It was the second straight year that Wait a While won the Ballston Spa. Last year, she covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.00. Thursday, her time over a Mellon Turf Course listed as firm was 1:39.70. She returned $3.70 as the favorite.

"I felt like the Mellon Course was firmer than the inner course, and that played in our favor," trainer Todd Pletcher said. "I knew she was traveling well, but they did finish. It was a good race."

Under John Velazquez, Wait a While stalked Sharp Susan through fractions of 23.93 seconds, 47.08, and 1:10.39. Around the far turn, Wait a While inched closer to Sharp Susan and took command at the three-sixteenths pole. Carriage Trail, under Edgar Prado, loomed a late threat, but Wait a While turned her back. It was Wait a While's 11th win from 22 career starts, and the $120,000 first-place purse pushed her career earnings to $1,914,817 for owner Alan Cohen's Arindel Farm.

"She got a little bit strong in the gate," said Velazquez, who was riding Wait a While for the first time since March 2007. "She rated nicely - I put her wherever I wanted to just to keep my position. When I asked her, she responded right away."

Pletcher said Wait a While would run next in the Grade 1, $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita on Sept. 27 as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf on Oct. 24.

One race before the Ballston Spa, Trouble Maker rallied past the pacesetters in upper stretch and held off late-running Lady Carlock to win the $83,500 Old Red Stakes by a half-length. It was three-quarters of a length back to Final Refrain in third.

The win was the first of the meet for trainer Tom Albertrani, who had 4 seconds and 6 thirds from his previous 19 starters.

Trouble Maker, a 5-year-old daughter of Labeeb, covered the mile in 1:37.33 under Eibar Coa and returned $13.60 to win. It was Coa's third winner on the card.

Indyanne sees some familiar faces

If trainer Greg Gilchrist's undefeated 3-year-old filly Indyanne didn't feel at home when she first arrived at Saratoga to compete in Saturday's Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes, she certainly did once she settled into her temporary quarters in trainer Gary Contessa's barn at the Oklahoma training center. Awaiting her in the next stall was former stablemate Vicarino, a 4-year-old colt purchased privately by Contessa from his friend Greg Gilchrist less than three weeks earlier.

"Not only did Vicarino and Indyanne live in adjacent stalls in my barn back home, they also shared the same groom, Pascual Garcia," Gilchrist said. "And when Pascual arrived with Indyanne the other morning, Vicarino recognized him immediately and ran right to him."

Vicarino was the first of several horses Gilchrist plans to disperse over the next several months that belonged to the late Harry Aleo, who died this summer. Contessa purchased Vicarino, a 4-year-old multiple stakes winner, in the interest of Steve Sigler's Winning Move Stable.

Vicarino has won 6 of 12 career starts, including stakes at 2 and 3. He has not started since finishing fourth in the Sam J. Whiting Stakes at the Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton on July 4.

"He worked great here on Wednesday," Contessa said. "He went five furlongs in a minute and change, and I'm looking at the Quick Call overnight stakes going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf at the end of this meet for his next start."

Desert Party breezes for Hopeful

Desert Party, winner of the Sanford Stakes on July 24, worked six furlongs in 1:12.09 Thursday morning over the Polytrack surface at the Greentree Training Center adjacent to the barn area at Saratoga. Desert Party is pointing to the Grade 1 Hopeful here on Sept. 1.

Under exercise rider Anna Hollander, Desert Party went his first three furlongs in 37.06 seconds and his last three furlongs in 35.03.

"Perfect," trainer Eoin Harty said. "He's an easy horse to keep fit. He's trained very well."

Harty said his other top 2-year-old, Reynaldothewizard, who finished third in the Saratoga Special after getting away from the gate poorly, will make his next start in either the Futurity on Sept. 13 or the Champagne on Oct. 4. Both races are at Belmont.

Curlin and friends school in paddock

Horse of the Year Curlin and his stablemates Pyro (Travers) and J Be K (King's Bishop) all schooled in the paddock prior to the start of Thursday's third race. Curlin is preparing for a start in the $500,000 Woodward Stakes here on Aug. 30.

A gaggle of still and television cameras followed Curlin around, sometimes causing a New York Racing Association official to ask the photographers to back up.

"This is a minor inconvenience," Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, said of the plethora of press. "Not having these three is a major problem."

Moonshine Alice opts for Monmouth race

Moonshine Alice is another recent purchase on the verge of making her first start for new connections.

Moonshine Alice, a 3-year-old daughter of Straight Man, was bought by owner Louis Lazzinnaro earlier this spring at Keeneland, according to her current trainer, Bobby Frankel. Moonshine Alice has not started since capping off a three-race win streak with a victory in the Sophomore Fillies Stakes at Tampa on April 5.

Frankel nominated Moonshine Alice for the Victory Ride but decided to pass the race due to the imposing presence of Indyanne to await a softer spot in Sunday's Miss Woodford Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Maggi Moss visits Spa

Maggi Moss, the second-leading owner in the country in wins and third in money earned this year, was a visitor to Saratoga on Thursday. The Iowa-based attorney said it was her first visit here since the late 1980s, when she judged a horse show on a dark day at the track.

Moss was enjoying the brilliant weather that finally arrived at Saratoga - she joked that she brought this weather with her - but she was planning to return to Iowa on Friday morning.

Of Saratoga, she said, "This is what horse racing should be. This is the spirit I like."

* Songster, a three-time graded stakes-winning sprinter who has not started since capturing the Bold Ruler at Belmont in May 2007, inched closer to his return by working five furlongs in 1:00.08 under jockey Edgar Prado on Thursday. Songster went his opening quarter in 22.92 seconds and opening half in 46.85 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.08.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch