08/22/2007 12:00AM

Win could move Altesse up the ranks

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Altesse is not quite ready for Friday's Grade 1 Personal Ensign Handicap, but trainer Shug McGaughey is hoping his consistent and gradually improving 4-year-old filly might earn herself a chance to compete against graded stakes company with a strong performance earlier on Friday's card in the $80,000 Marriott Courtyard overnight stakes. The 1 1/8-mile race drew a field of five fillies and mares.

Altesse, a daughter of A.P. Indy, is coming off a frustrating streak of three straight second-place finishes against stakes competition, including a strong effort behind Grade 1 Alabama winner Lady Joanne in the Banshee Breeze Stakes earlier in the meet.

"I think she's been second or third five times in stakes races, and I'd really like to win one of these with her," McGaughey said at his barn on Wednesday morning. "I thought her last race might have been her best, and it was unfortunate because I didn't expect Lady Joanne to show up in there. And a mile and one-eighth around the big turns here is something she likes, because that way we don't have to rush her off her feet."

McGaughey said that if Altesse can break through and earn her first stakes victory Friday, he might consider stepping her up into graded company.

"Right now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and hoping she can win this one," said McGaughey. "I'm not thinking of any of the bigger races for her beyond Friday, although if she were to win, we'd probably have to at least consider it. With her running style, the Polytrack at Keeneland might be okay, and so might the Beldame when we get back to Belmont."

The Grade 1 Beldame is carded at 1 1/8 miles on Sept. 30.

Trainer Neil Howard will send out two of the five starters in Friday's race, Soul Search and Leo's Pegasus.

Soul Search has failed to hit the board in four starts since finishing second in the Grade 1 Spinster last fall at Keeneland. She will get some class relief after beating only one rival in the Grade 1 Go for Wand here July 28. Leo's Pegasus finished third, 10 lengths behind Altesse, in the Banshee Breeze.

Tap Gold, second in the Lady's Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park on Aug. 5, and A True Pussycat, graded-stakes-placed on both turf and dirt, complete the lineup.

Stunt Man plays spoiler in Albany

For the second year in a row, the New York Breeders' Fund saved $250,000 after Stunt Man posted an easy two-length victory over Dr. V's Magic in Wednesday's $150,000 Albany Stakes, preventing Chief's Lake from completing a sweep of the Big Apple Triple. Chief's Lake, who won the Mike Lee and New York Derby, finished a tiring third as the even-money favorite.

The breeders' fund offers a $250,000 bonus to the owner of any horse who wins all three legs of the Big Apple Triple. A year ago, Ferocious Won also captured the opening two legs of the series but finished sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Albany.

Stunt Man ($9.40), a son of Western Expression, finished second in the Mike Lee, third in the New York Derby, and entered the Albany off a third-place finish on the turf in the Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Stakes. Patiently handled by jockey Ramon Dominguez, Stunt Man raced within easy striking distance of early pacesetter Doctor Freud, moved three wide to challenge along with Chief's Lake midway on the second turn, and was taken in hand after pulling well clear at midstretch.

"Some horses just seem to train unbelievable when they get to Saratoga and this horse has done just that," said trainer Gary Contessa. "He's a different horse, sounder and happier, since he's arrived here."

Contessa said he should be in line for a bit of the $250,000 bonus.

"I was thinking the New York breeders might give me a little piece of that $250,000 for saving them all that money," Contessa joked after the race.

In the $80,000 Capades Stakes for fillies and mares on the turf Wednesday, Jazzy ($16.40) broke last, then finished full of run down the middle of the course to overtake Stormy Kiss in the final strides for the win. Smart and Fancy, the 6-5 favorite, was third.

Minor injury leads to scratch of Argentina

Argentina, runner-up to My Typhoon in the Grade 1 Diana Handicap on July 28, appeared to have found the perfect spot to earn her first U.S. victory when she was dropped into a second-level optional claiming race Wednesday. Unfortunately, trainer Bobby Frankel had to scratch the Irish-bred due to a minor injury suffered on Tuesday.

"She must have stepped on a rock, because she was sore yesterday," Frankel said after training hours Wednesday. "She was fine this morning and will probably return to the track on Thursday, although to be on the safe side I decided it would be best to keep her out of this race."

The defection of Argentina, who figured to be an odds-on favorite, opened the door for Tejida to post a wire-to-wire victory under jockey Carlos Marquez Jr. for trainer Michael Matz. The win was the third in a row for Tejida, a daughter of Rahy whose two previous tallies came at Delaware Park.

Wingspan, multiple group-placed in Europe and a game winner of her only previous start in this country, finished third as the 1-2 favorite.

Multiple graded winner Karen's Caper retired

Frankel also reported that multiple graded-stakes winner Karen's Caper has been retired.

Karen's Caper won her only start this year, Monmouth Park's Grade 3 Eatontown Stakes on June 16. Frankel pointed Karen's Caper for the Diana following that victory but withdrew her from consideration due to an injured frog.

"She had the problem with her frog, then developed a throat issue that required surgery, which would have meant taking another four or five weeks to get her ready," Frankel explained. "With all that going on it just seemed that someone was trying to tell us to retire her."

Karen's Caper, a 5-year-old daughter of War Chant, launched her career winning 2 of 6 starts in Europe before coming to the U.S. during the fall of her 3-year-old campaign. She finished second, beaten a nose by Sweet Talker, in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup in her 3-year-old finale.

Barancella, Grade 1 stakes-placed on three occasions on the turf, breezed six furlongs for Frankel in 1:16.84 over the main track on Wednesday. She'll make her next start in the Grade 3 Glens Falls Handicap on closing day, Sept. 3.

"Sometimes I prefer to work her over the main track if the turf is too hard," said Frankel.

Kent next for Nobiz Like Shobiz

Nobiz Like Shobiz, winner of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame Stakes here on Aug. 6, will make his next start in the Grade 3, $500,000 Kent Breeders' Cup at Delaware Park on Sept. 1, trainer Barclay Tagg said Wednesday.

Tagg said the Kent, run on the turf at 1 1/8 miles, could be part of a three-race fall campaign that includes the $300,000 Jamaica at Belmont Park on Oct. 6 and the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby run in late November at Hollywood Park.

Tagg said the Kent "gives me five weeks from the Hall of Fame, it's $500,000, same as the Man o' War, but it's straight 3-year-olds. They've been off the turf [at Delaware] for a couple of weeks; hopefully it'll be in good shape by the time they run it."

Nobiz Like Shobiz, who won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on dirt earlier in the year, worked five furlongs in 1:02.24 Wednesday morning over Saratoga's main track. It was the eighth-fastest of 20 works at the distance.

"I thought it was slow, but I don't know how fast the track is," Tagg said.

Training for Forego, Chatain works a bullet

Chatain worked five furlongs in 59.17 seconds over the main track on Wednesday, easily the fastest of 19 recorded works on the morning's tab. Chatain, winner of a third-level allowance race here on Aug. 6 when returning from a 3 1/2-month layoff, will make his next start in the Grade 1 Forego Handicap on Sept. 1.

"He's a good work horse when he's doing good, and right now he's doing good," trainer Angel Penna Jr. said. "So far we're on target for the Forego."

- additional reporting by David Grening