08/22/2008 12:00AM

Zito aims high with Wanderin Boy


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Wanderin Boy may be owned by bluebloods, but he is as blue-collar a horse as they come.

In a 22-race career in which he has earned $1 million, Wanderin Boy has faced some of the elite horses in the game and given them everything they could handle. In Grade 1 stakes, he has finished second to champions Invasor, Lawyer Ron, and Bernardini.

Next Saturday, Wanderin Boy may be tackling his toughest foe yet when he runs in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes against reigning Horse of the Year Curlin. Trainer Nick Zito had the option of running Wanderin Boy in the Grade 1 Forego at seven furlongs, but he feels the Woodward at 1 1/8 miles is a better fit.

"You look for glory sometimes," said Zito, who trains Wanderin Boy for long-time owner/breeder Arthur Hancock. "If you can upset Curlin, it'll be great. Also, that's his best distance. It's a big race, it's the Woodward, he likes Saratoga. I don't think sprinting would be advantageous to a 7-year-old."

Wanderin Boy is one of two 7-year-olds that still are going strong for Zito. The other, of course, is Commentator, who earlier this meet won the Grade 1 Whitney, a race he won in 2005.

Wanderin Boy just won at seven furlongs, but that was against much weaker company than Curlin. Last year, Wanderin Boy finished seventh in the Woodward, but that followed a strong second-place finish to Lawyer Ron in the Whitney, in which a track record was set for 1 1/8 miles. In 2006, Wanderin Boy finished second to Bernardini in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont just five months after finishing second to Invasor in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special at Pimlico.

"Lawyer Ron, Invasor, Bernardini," Zito said. "If he runs a good race to Curlin that'll just go on his resume."

Wanderin Boy's biggest victory came in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap in 2006. His other graded stakes wins include the Mineshaft, Ben Ali, and Alysheba, all Grade 3 events

On Friday, Wanderin Boy drilled a strong half-mile in 47.28 seconds over the Oklahoma training track, the fastest of 29 works at the distance.

According to stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes, others pointing to the Woodward include A.P. Arrow, Divine Park, Merchant Marine, and Star Plus. Possible starters include Harlington and Past the Point.

Sherlock a first-time visitor to Spa

It's fun having a Grade 1 winner in your barn. You get to go places you may otherwise not see. Intangaroo took trainer Gary Sherlock to Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. Now, his fabulous filly has taken him to Saratoga for the first time.

"It's like hallowed ground, it's good to be here," Sherlock said Friday morning. "It's like being a baseball fan and walking into Yankee Stadium. I'll go to the races today and see how it feels."

Sherlock was able to enjoy himself Friday and Saturday, but it will be all business Sunday when Intangaroo runs in the Grade 1, $250,000 Ballerina Stakes. Intangaroo has won 3 of 5 starts this year, including the Grade 1 Santa Monica at Santa Anita and the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

Intangaroo enters the Ballerina off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 A Gleam Handicap at Hollywood Park eight weeks ago. Sherlock said his late-running filly had no chance on a speed-biased track in a race without much pace. Dearest Trickski won that race in gate-to-wire fashion.

"That racetrack was a freeway; there was no speed to go with Dearest Trickski," Sherlock said. "The only little bit of speed - Magnificience - got left in the race. [Dearest Trickski] was three in front in 45-and-2 on a speed-biased track."

Sherlock said the eight-week break between races is not by design, "there was just no place to run."

Sherlock said he hopes to use the Ballerina as a springboard to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Oct. 24 at Santa Anita.

Ward mulls options with Dr. Pleasure

Trainer John Ward remains undecided as to what will be next for Dr. Pleasure, who turned in the best performance of his career when he romped to an 8 1/4- length optional claiming victory here earlier this month.

Dr. Pleasure indicated his readiness for whatever comes next when working five furlongs in 1:01.40 over the Oklahoma training track on Friday. The move was the second fastest at the distance on the tab behind only Ward's lightly raced but extremely promising 3-year-old Forest Command.

"He's doing super," said Ward. "We found he had an entrapped epiglottis following his last start at Gulfstream this winter and he's a new dimension since we corrected the problem. Before he would carry his head up high and have trouble getting his air. Now he just levels off and goes."

Ward is contemplating either sending Dr. Pleasure to Suffolk Downs for the Massachusetts Handicap on Sept. 20 or awaiting an allowance race either here or at Belmont later this summer. Dr. Pleasure finished third behind Brass Hat in the 2007 Mass Cap.

"It looks like Commentator is heading to the Mass Cap and he'd be a pretty formidable opponent," said Ward. "We'll just see how things shake out and then decide what will be the best option for the horse."

* Acai and Tiz Now Tiz Then both worked six furlongs Friday morning over Saratoga's main track as they prepare for a start in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 1 at Philadelphia Park. Acai, equipped with blinkers that he will wear for the first time in that race, went six furlongs in 1:12.04, while Tiz Now Tiz Then, third in the Jim Dandy last out, went the same distance in 1:12.45.

* Coal Play, the Zito-trained 3-year-old who finished second to Big Brown in the Haskell on Aug. 3, worked four furlongs in 50.23 seconds on Thursday. Zito said Coal Play is likely to run next in the Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Handicap for 3-year-olds at Belmont on Oct. 5.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch