`Oro' still wears label as class of Travers

Prado, Repent take shot at heavy pick in $1M race

Horse Racing

August 24, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Bobby Frankel peered past the trees outside his barn on a resplendent Saratoga morning.

"Boy, he looks good," Frankel said. "All I know is, he looks good to me right now."

Frankel, the leading trainer in the country, watched Medaglia d'Oro walk after his morning gallop in preparation for the $1 million Travers Stakes today at Saratoga. Frankel can't seem to lose a Grade I race these days, and he said he believes his statuesque 3-year-old is poised for a peak performance in the most important race of Saratoga's 36-day meet.

But Frankel cautioned: "I've run a lot of horses who looked like they were at their peak, and they didn't run. Nobody's a cinch in any race."

Bettors will likely view Medaglia d'Oro as about as close to a cinch as cinches come. Don LaPlace, the Saratoga oddsmaker, listed the colt as 2-5 in the morning line based on his 13 3/4 -length romp three weeks ago in the Jim Dandy Stakes here at odds of 3-5 - and the absence of proven opposition in the Travers.

Medaglia d'Oro could threaten War Emblem for championship honors in the 3-year-old division if War Emblem falters and Medaglia d'Oro wins the Travers and defeats older horses in the fall. War Emblem, who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, faces older horses tomorrow in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

Frankel, whose potent stable has already earned more than $10 million this year, said Medaglia d'Oro appreciated the break after the Triple Crown series. The El Prado colt prepped for the series by winning the San Felipe Stakes in California and finishing second to Buddha in the Wood Memorial in New York.

Then Medaglia d'Oro ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby, eighth in the Preakness and second in the Belmont. The lackluster Preakness, by far his worst effort, still baffles Frankel.

It might have been, he said, a combination of things: The two-week break after the Derby, a too-fast workout before the Preakness, a drying-out racing surface at Pimlico and Frankel's decision to van the colt from New York the morning of the race.

Whatever the reason, Frankel said, that was then and this is now, and, "I'm not really worried about anyone in the Travers. If he shows up and runs his race, I think he'll be in really good shape."

Edgar Prado, the former Maryland riding star, may have something to say about that. Prado will ride Repent, Ken McPeek's trainee, who is making his first start since suffering a minor ankle fracture April 6 in the Illinois Derby.

Prado has surged past Jerry Bailey in the jockeys' race for supremacy at Saratoga with four victories Saturday, four Sunday, four Wednesday and four again yesterday. With nine days left in the Saratoga meet, Prado leads Bailey 44-36 and is on pace to top Bailey's record of 55 Saratoga wins last year.

"Nothing is over until the last day of the meet," Prado said. "I'm not riding any better. It's just that the quality of horses I'm riding is a little better than it used to be. It's all about the horses."

Prado won the Belmont with Sarava for McPeek, but this will be his first time riding Repent.

"I think that Edgar Prado and his style on a horse - he's such a patient rider - suit Repent, and I'm very excited about having Edgar on him," McPeek said.

Beau Greely, trainer of Like A Hero, is glad to have Laffit Pincay Jr., the winningest jockey in history, aboard his colt, who finished third in the Haskell Invitational. Whenever the California-based Pincay, 55, flies cross-country for a race, Greely said, you can be sure he believes he has a good chance of winning.

Trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Nick Zito entered two apiece - all long shots. Zito will saddle Quest and Nothing Flat, and Lukas will start Gold Dollar and Shah Jehan, a $4.4 million yearling by Mr. Prospector.

The wily Allen Jerkens entered Puzzlement, who could spring an upset at long odds. And Michael Matz, the renowned show rider turned trainer, will saddle Saint Marden, a lightly raced colt based at Fair Hill in Maryland.

This will be the fifth start, and first stakes try, for the son of Saint Ballado, who romped in a July 28 allowance race here.

"I don't know if we can beat the first horse," Matz said, referring to Medaglia d'Oro. "If we run third or fourth, I'll be happy."

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