09/12/2003 11:00PM

Wild Spirit a winning stand-in


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Bobby Frankel didn't need Sightseek to win Saturday's Ruffian Handicap after all.

Wild Spirit, the other top older filly in Frankel's barn, was a more than competent replacement as she cruised to a 3 1/2-length victory over stablemate You in the Grade 1, $300,000 before 6,842 at Belmont Park. It was five lengths back to Passing Shot in third.

Wild Spirit was a late replacement for Sightseek, whom trainer Bobby Frankel said was suffering from a cough and could not run.

Wild Spirit, who won the Shuvee and Delaware handicaps earlier this year, was upset at 1-5 by Passing Shot in the Personal Ensign at Saratoga. Frankel deduced that Wild Spirit didn't like racing on the front end and reacted negatively to being hit with the whip.

On Saturday, Frankel instructed Bailey to get Wild Spirit in the clear and to not hit the filly. Breaking from the rail in the six-horse, field, Bailey took Wild Spirit back to last and guided her to the outside down the backstretch.

Wild Spirit raced four wide into the turn, made the lead when shaken up by Bailey turning for home and cruised home an easy winner. Wild Spirit, a Chilean-bred daughter of Hussonet, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.23 over a fast track. She returned $3.10.

"Going one turn here with a short field, it's real simple - unless they're real speedy - to get out early so I did it early," Bailey said. "To be honest, I think she was going to run like that no matter where I pointed her today, but I didn't want to take any chances.''

It was the 20th Grade 1 victory for Frankel - two shy of D. Wayne Lukas's record set in 1987. Frankel also trains Ruffian runner-up You, who set fractions of 23.11 seconds, 45.90, and 1:10.10. With her second-place finish, You went over the $2 million mark in career earnings.

"You know how I was scared of? It was You," Frankel said. "Because I knew she was going to get an easy lead."

Wild Spirit, owned by Oussama Aboughazale's Sumaya Us Stable, is not Breeders' Cup-nominated and it would cost $400,000 to supplement to the $2 million Distaff where she would have to run against Azeri. Aboughazale, who saw the race in person, said he would leave that decision to Frankel.

Frankel plans on running Wild Spirit in the $750,000 Beldame Stakes here on Oct. 5 while pointing Sightseek to the $500,000 Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 5.

"If she wins the $750,000 [race], why do I have to go to the Breeders' Cup and put up all that money?" Frankel said of Wild Spirit.