08/03/2006 12:00AM

Will 'Flower' need one?


Todd Pletcher believes Flower Alley will be better later in the year. Kiaran McLaughlin believes Invasor has never been better. In whom you trust will determine how you wager in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 at Saratoga.

Flower Alley, last year's Jim Dandy and Travers winner, and Invasor, this year's Pimlico Special and Suburban Handicap winner, head a nine-horse field entered in the Whitney, run at 1 1/8 miles on dirt. The Whitney shares billing with the Grade 1 Test for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs. Both will be televised live on ESPN in a one-hour broadcast beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern.

The Whitney is Pletcher's first major goal of the season for Flower Alley, who will try to join Medaglia d'Oro as the only horses to win the Jim Dandy and Travers at 3 and the Whitney at 4. Flower Alley, a son of Distorted Humor owned by Eugene Melnyk, got his Whitney prep when he won the Grade 3 Salvator Mile at Monmouth on June 24. In a perfect world, Pletcher said he would have had two preps before the Whitney.

"We're probably at a little bit of a disadvantage because we've only had one race this year," Pletcher said. "He ran very well in that race, and he's trained very well since then. I think he's probably going to peak one race from here, maybe. I fully expect him to run very well. I hope he's seasoned enough and fit enough to run his ?A' race. Logic would tell you he's probably one race from being where Invasor is in his fitness and conditioning."

Still, the race should set up well for Flower Alley, who likes to stalk. Siphon City and Wanderin Boy figure to duke it out on the front end.

"We should be in the cat bird's seat there," Pletcher said.

Flower Alley breaks from post 5 under John Velazquez and is the co-highweight at 120 pounds along with Invasor.

Invasor, a champion in Uruguay, has blossomed into a top contender in North America's handicap division. After dropping back and coming on again in the Pimlico Special, Invasor was in the bridle the entire way when he rolled to a 4 1/4-length victory in the Suburban.

"His best performance to date was the Suburban," McLaughlin said. "In the Pimlico Special and in Dubai he dropped back out of it. In the Suburban he was always there for [Fernando Jara]."

Before the post position draw, McLaughlin expressed some concern about getting hung wide if he drew an outside post. That fear was alleviated when Invasor drew post 2.

"The horse is doing great," McLaughlin said. "It's just the trip. We need to work out a smooth trip."

Survivalist, who won last year's Gotham, is 3 for 5 this year. He has won his last three races, including the RRM Carpenter Memorial Handicap at Delaware Park in his last start.

"He's liking what he's doing," said trainer Shug McGaughey. "He's been very aggressive, the right way. His first race back was a good race. He had the inside, was trapped down there the whole time. His two allowance wins at Belmont were very good. I know it was a different caliber of horses, but he was a very easy winner at Delaware."

Trainer Nick Zito won the Whitney last year with Commentator. On Saturday, Zito sends out the uncoupled entry of Wanderin Boy and Sun King. While Wanderin Boy figures to get hooked in a duel with Siphon City, Sun King would benefit from such a scenario. He will have to work out a trip from the difficult outside post in the nine-horse field.

Premium Tap defeated Sun King in the Albert the Great Stakes on July 7. He is in the best form of his career right now and gets six pounds from the two favorites. West Virginia finished third to Invasor in the Pimlico Special and, most recently, finished third in the Stephen Foster.