09/18/2008 11:00PM

Zaskar faces softer in Statuette


ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Zaskar picked some ambitious spots for her to participate in when she first arrived in this country from Europe three months ago. After disappointing results in the Grade 1 American Oaks and Grade 2 Lake Placid, Zaskar has been entered in a more realistic spot in Sunday's $75,000 Statuette Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Statuette, run at a mile over the Widener turf, is restricted to 3-year-old fillies who have not won a turf stakes in 2008. A field of 10 was entered.

The Sovereign Stable, headed by Mike Gatsas, purchased Zaskar in early summer and her first start in this country was the American Oaks at Hollywood Park. She was racing outside the eventual winner, Pure Clan, entering the far turn when she was forced to take up sharply. She was basically out of the race and wound up 10th.

Sent to trainer John Terranova in New York after that race, Zaskar trained sensationally with blinkers added, but when she ran with them in the Lake Placid, she was too keen and wound up seventh, 10 1/4 lengths behind repeat winner Backseat Rhythm.

Terranova is taking the blinkers off Zaskar for this race.

"The way she ran the race, she jumped into the bridle too early, Johnny [Velazquez] had a hard time getting her to settle down and couldn't get her tucked in and covered up," Terranova said. "She wasn't effective at all and she was going up against some top fillies.

"She's in the right type of spot and she's training excellent," Terranova added. "I'm looking forward to running her. The only question mark is she going to run out of ground? The mile might be too short. Though she did it in Europe, I think she's meant for a little more distance."

With Polar Circle, E. Judith, and Julia Tuttle in the field, there does appear to be ample speed. But a good pace figures to aid Senor Rita Lady, Miss Challenge, and Forest Trail as well.

Timber Reserve sharp in Gold Cup drill

Timber Reserve completed his preparations for next Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup by working a sharp five furlongs in 59.44 seconds Friday morning over Belmont's main track. Kent Desormeaux was aboard for the move, the second fastest of 17 works at the distance. Desormeaux will ride him in the Gold Cup

"Nice move," trainer John Kimmel said.

Plagued by foot problems since winning the Pennsylvania Derby last September, Timber Reserve will enter the Gold Cup off a solid allowance win at Saratoga on Aug. 29 in which he ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.17 and never felt the leather of Desormeaux's whip. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103.

"I think his race in Saratoga was a very easy race for him," Kimmel said. "The jockey never turned the stick over, and he ran racehorse time really. To me, he could have easily run four or five points better in his Beyer rating. Now with that race under his belt, I think he's ready to take it up another notch, which is obviously what he's going to have to do to make this a competitive event with these other horses."

Also working for the Gold Cup on Friday was Wanderin Boy, who drilled four furlongs in 48.33 seconds over the Saratoga training track. It was the fastest of 26 drills at the distance.

Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year, is expected to have his final Gold Cup workout Monday.

Desert Key ready wherever he goes

The only horse to work five furlongs faster than Timber Reserve at Belmont on Friday was Desert Key, the King's Bishop runner-up, who covered the distance in 59.06 seconds.

Now, trainer Jimmy Jerkens and Centennial Farms, owners of Desert Key, must decide whether to tackle older horses in the Grade 1 Vosburgh here next Saturday or stay with 3-year-olds in the $250,000 Gallant Bob Stakes at Philadelphia Park on the same day.

"I'm leaning a little more to the Gallant Bob," Jerkens said Friday afternoon. "We'll decide in the next few days."

Asked if he was looking for such a rapid drill Friday, Jerkens said, "Why not? He hasn't run in a month. Fast horses need to work fast to stay fit. Mine do, anyway."

Criminologist likely to Athenia

Criminologist, winner of last Saturday's Noble Damsel at Belmont, will most likely make her next start in the Grade 3, $100,000 Athenia Handicap here Oct. 11.

Trainer Shug McGaughey said if Criminologist were to run well in that race, he would consider taking a shot in the Grade 1, $500,000 Matriarch at Hollywood Park on Nov. 30. McGaughey said Criminologist would be retired at year's end.

McGaughey said his 2-year-olds Gone Astray and Persistently would run back in the Champagne and Frizette, respectively, here Oct. 4.

Gone Astray finished fifth to Charitable Man in the Grade 2 Futurity here last Saturday.

"He never got a chance to do anything," McGaughey said. "I wish he could've gotten out, but he got shoved down on the rail leaving there and he just couldn't go anywhere. He was eating all that dirt."

Persistently finished a late-running second to Doremifasollatido in the Grade 2 Matron.

"It wasn't anybody's fault, but when we were going wide that other filly got through on the inside and we couldn't catch her," McGaughey said.

* Divine Park, the Metropolitan Mile winner, worked four furlongs in 48.17 seconds Friday over the Belmont training track. It was his first breeze since finishing sixth to Curlin in the Woodward.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile is a possibility for Divine Park, but more likely he would be pointed to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in late November.

"We know he runs well on dirt," McLaughlin said.

* John Velazquez was given a seven-day suspension for his ride aboard Lost Without You in Thursday's Jack Better Be Rite Stakes. Lost Without You came over on Meriwether Jessica in midstretch and finished a head in front at the wire. Lost Without You was disqualified and placed second.

Having appealed, a stay was granted and Velazquez will be permitted to ride until a hearing is held.