08/03/2004 11:00PM

Which version of Purge will show up?

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Seattle Fitz gallops Wednesday at Saratoga in preparation for Saturday's Whitney.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It was only 11 weeks ago that Purge was considered among the elite 3-year-olds in the nation following his devastatingly easy victory in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes.

When trainer Todd Pletcher indicated he wasn't going to run Purge back in the Belmont Stakes, he received plenty of cards, letters, and phone calls urging him to reconsider. Eventually, Pletcher changed his mind and entered Purge in the Belmont.

It turned into a disaster when Purge became unglued in the paddock, ran a fast opening half-mile, and faded to last, 37 1/2 lengths behind Birdstone. Hardly a word has been uttered about Purge since.

Sunday, Purge can turn up the chatter when he returns in the Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga. Purge has been based at Saratoga since shortly after the Belmont, and his last few workouts have been very sharp.

"In retrospect, I wish we hadn't run in the Belmont, but had we not run in the Belmont and sat and watched Birdstone win I would have said 'Man, we should have run in the Belmont,' " Pletcher said. "I freshened him after that. If he runs back to his Peter Pan he's got a shot.''

Purge had the misfortune of twice running into Smarty Jones this spring at Oaklawn Park. He finished second to him in the Rebel Stakes and fifth in the Arkansas Derby. Purge raced on the front end both times. Smarty Jones went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

In the Peter Pan, Purge actually sat third before taking command and drawing off to win by 6 3/4 lengths. Pletcher was hoping Purge would settle in the Belmont, but it never happened.

"Our objective in the Belmont was for him to settle a little bit and he was completely unsettled in the paddock and post parade and he was rank going into the first turn,'' Pletcher said.

Pletcher hopes Allen Jerkens runs Medallist in the Jim Dandy because Pletcher believes Medallist would be the speed of the race. "If not, it's going to be a matter of how much he'll settle for Johnny [Velazquez],'' Pletcher said.

The definite runners in the Peter Pan are Courageous Act, Eddington, Niigon, and The Cliff's Edge. Medallist is probable; Swingforthefences possible.

Trainer Tony Reinstedler said Chippewa Trail, third in the Round Table at Arlington Park, is out for at least 60 days after coming out of his work with a problem in his right hind pastern.

Newfoundland seeks Grade 1 breakthrough

The day before Pletcher sends out Purge in the Jim Dandy, he will saddle Newfoundland in the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap. Newfoundland is coming off a terrific runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap. His effort seemed to get overshadowed by that of the winner, Peace Rules, and the third-place finisher, Funny Cide.

"The headline was 'Peace Rules beats Funny Cide,' '' Pletcher said. "I thought he ran well. I thought at the eighth pole he had a big chance to win it. He's an improving horse that I think is a little better at a mile and an eighth than a mile and a quarter so, hopefully, the cutback in distance will help.''

Newfoundland began the year with wins in the off-the-turf Canadian Turf Handicap and the Skip Away Handicap, both Grade 3 events. He finished second in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, a race in which Pletcher was not thrilled with his colt's trip. Newfoundland then finished third in the Brooklyn Handicap before the Suburban.

Newfoundland has raced close to the pace in each of his last two starts. Pletcher would like to see him a little farther off the pace, which he sees quite possible given the amount of speed expected in the Whitney.

"I thought we took the worst of it [in the Brooklyn]; we ended up on the inside of Seattle Fitz, through really fast fractions,'' Pletcher said. "He finally checked out of there and once he got back around to the outside he kind of came on a little bit again. Seattle Fitz was very good on the day. I didn't think we ran a bad race.''

If healthy, Birdstone runs next year

Like the rest of the Thoroughbred community, trainer Nick Zito was saddened to hear that Smarty Jones had been retired. Zito is the trainer of Birdstone, who derailed Smarty Jones's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes.

"Anytime you have a horse that's good for our sport [retired], it's sad because he brought a lot to the table,'' Zito said. "I'd like to compete against him with my other horses too. I'd like The Cliff to get another shot at him.''

Zito was referring to The Cliff's Edge, who finished fifth behind Smarty Jones in the Kentucky Derby.

Meanwhile, Zito said that if Birdstone finishes the year sound, he will run as a 4-year-old. Zito is training Birdstone up to the Travers on Aug. 28, though he hasn't given much thought to his schedule beyond that race. The $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 2 is a likely spot because it is five weeks from the Travers.

Zito will have plenty of 3-year-old action this weekend. Saturday, Sir Shackleton will run in the West Virginia Derby. Sunday, The Cliff's Edge will run in the Jim Dandy while Royal Assault and Pies Prospect will run in the Haskell.

Shakespeare injured, career likely over

Shakespeare, who trainer Bill Mott said "might have been the best horse I had in my barn,'' suffered a slab fracture of his right knee and will likely not race again. Shakespeare was found to have the injury on Wednesday, one day after he worked five furlongs in 1:02.47 over the main track.

Shakespeare, a son of Theatrical, had won his first two starts, including the Caltech Stakes at Gulfstream Park last winter. He had been sidelined since March due to an injured splint bone. Shakespeare was preparing to make his return in Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes.

Mott said Shakespeare would likely be sent to the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Kentucky to see if surgery would be needed.

"He could become pasture sound or even race again, but they rarely come back to that [top] level,'' Mott said.

Shakespeare is owned by Dell Ridge Farm and William Schettine.

Hall of Fame contenders work

Artie Schiller and Second Performance both worked over the Oklahoma turf course on Wednesday in preparation for Monday's National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Artie Schiller, second in the Grade 3 Virginia Derby in his last start, covered five furlongs in 1:00.25, with jockey Richard Migliore in the saddle.

Second Performance, third in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes in his last start, worked in company and covered a half-mile in 48.07 seconds, the fastest of 24 works at the distance. Robby Albarado worked Second Performance and will ride him on Monday.

The field is also expected to include Good Reward, Icy Atlantic, Street Theatre, and Dealer Choice.

The morning of the race, Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Good Reward, and Kent Desormeaux, who is scheduled to ride Street Theatre, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at an induction ceremony at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.

As part of the day's festivities celebrating the induction ceremonies, the inductees are asked to make the trophy presentation to the winning connections of for the Racing Hall of Fame Stakes.

McGaughey quipped, "I hope I present it to myself."

Storm Flag Flying sustains minor injury

McGaughey said that Storm Flag Flying, third in last Sunday's Grade 1 Go for Wand, came out of the race with a cut on the outside of her right foreleg that required six stitches to mend.

"It happened when they tightened up on her going into the first turn," said McGaughey, who didn't use the cut as an excuse for the filly's loss.

McGaughey said he is hopeful that Storm Flag Flying, who was beaten 3 3/4 lengths in the Go for Wand, will run next in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign, a race named for a champion he trained, on Aug. 27. Personal Ensign's daughter, My Flag, is the dam of Storm Flag Flying.

Azeri and Sightseek, the winner and runner-up in the Go for Wand, are also expected to run back in the $400,000 Personal Ensign.

Funeral plans for Meittinis

A viewing for trainer Louis Meittinis, who died in his Long Island, N.Y., home on Monday at 61, will be held Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 p.m., and 7-9 p.m., at the Oyster Bay Funeral Home, 261 South St., Oyster Bay, N.Y.

Funeral services will be held Monday at 10:45 a.m. at St. Dominck's Catholic Church, 93 Anstice St., in Oyster Bay with burial to follow at the Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury, N.Y.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson