Sky Mesa, 60-40 for Haskell.

Sky Mesa, 60-40 for Haskell.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Saratoga Notebook: Ward Eyes Haskell; Prado on His Bobblehead; Frankel, Ward Grade 'Seabiscuit'

Trainer John Ward said Thursday that he is leaning toward running Sky Mesa in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I) at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3 instead of the Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga.

"I'd say I'm 60-40," Ward said.

Ward has been considering both races for the 3-year-old son of Pulpit, who is being pointed for the Travers (gr.I) on Aug. 23. Sky Mesa finished third in the Dwyer (gr.II) on July 5 in his first start of the year. In the Haskell, Sky Mesa will face Kentucky Derby (gr.I) and Preakness (gr.I) winner Funny Cide and Louisiana Derby winner Peace Rules. Belmont Stakes (gr.I) winner Empire Maker is sscheduled to run in the Jim Dandy.

Last summer, Sky Mesa won a maiden race and the Hopeful (gr.I) at Saratoga and improved his record to 3-0 in the Lane's End Futurity (gr.II) at Keeneland. He was scratched from the Breeder's Cup Juvenile (gr.I) with a minor leg injury and did not race again for eight months.

Ward said there were several reasons he is inclined to take John Oxley's colt to Monmouth Park, including carrying one less pound and the $500,000 difference in the purses.

"The other part of it is it's a little more speed-biased racetrack, which helps us in our second start," Ward said. "Our first start was a very strong effort and if you have to come back and have to run a very strong effort in his second start over this track it could hurt his Travers setup. That's what we're doing, setting up for the Travers."

"The main thing is I declared way early in the year that it was probably going to be our spot because it made sense to come back on a harder, faster racetrack before we got up here. We know he can run up here."

Ward said the Haskell might be the right time to face a classic winner like Funny Cide.

"I hate to tackle them, but if you're going to take on a horse that's gone through the Triple Crown series, the time to get them is the first race back," Ward said. "But he looks like he's come back. He's worked well. He's a very resilient animal."

Ward noted that Point Given was hard-pressed to win the Haskell in his first start after the 2001 Triple Crown series, but was much stronger in the Travers.

Prado Still Unsure of Bobblehead Likeness
Jockey Edgar Prado said he wasn't too sure how much his bobble-head doll given out in a Saratoga promotion by the New York Racing Association Thursday looked like him. The doll honored Prado as the leading rider at the meet last summer.

The first weekday promotion in Saratoga history boosted the announced attendance to 30,500. Last year, the first Thursday of the meeting, the attendance was 13,358. The 2002 on-track handle was $2,060,853; Thursday's handle was $2,036,474.

Prado smiled as he said he objected to the first version of the doll. He said the skin color of the bobbleheads that were free with a paid admission wasn't quite dark enough.

"The face on the doll is very wide and the nose is too pointy," Prado said. "I thought it looked more like Bob Baffert than me. It's good to have them, though. It's a nice promotion. The more things we do for racing the better."

Frankel, Ward Go to Movies
Trainers Bobby Frankel and John Ward were among the many horsemen who attended the East Coast premiere of "Seabiscuit" in Saratoga Springs.

"It was OK, It was good," Frankel said. "It wouldn't say it was great, but it was good. The book was brilliant. I guess if somebody didn't know as much about horses, that's who you've got to ask. I thought it was good. It kept my interest, which was good."

Frankel said he wasn't completely sold on the scenes involving horses.

"Well, they were a little hokey, but it's hard to get it down pat," he said. "It's not a race."

However, Frankel said he thought the movie adaptation of Laura Hillenbrand's best-selling book might attract some new fans to the sport.

"I would think so," Frankel said. "I went with somebody who didn't know that much about racing and they enjoyed it."

Still, Frankel said he wasn't the right person to review the movie.

"It's hard for me to judge," he said. "You have to ask somebody who is not involved in racing. You know so much about it that it's a little hokey, but it's hard to get it any better than they did, probably."

Ward had a different take on the movie.

"I thought it's going to be a good presentation for the public," he said. "It's a true story, which I thought they failed to publicize much. You can appreciate it more if you're a non-racing fan if you know that something like that is true. Especially, the rehabilitation of the horse and the jockey."

Ward conceded that he's a hard sell when it comes to racing cinema.

"I hate horse movies because they're done so poorly," he said.

"I can't stand to have an artist draw a horse that's got somebody on the wrong side or no tail on them. It drives me crazy.

"But I thought it was pretty well done. A couple of shots in it were really good about the emotion of a horse and the shots of their eyes. And the camera work was fantastic during the races."

Around the Spa
Veteran Daily Racing Form executive columnist Joe Hirsch spent Wednesday night in Saratoga Hospital following a fall in the Saratoga press box. Hirsch fractured his right clavicle. He was released from the hospital Thursday morning... Trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday that Balto Star was being pointed toward the Sword Dancer Invitational (gr. I) on Aug. 9. In his last start, Balto Star was an upset winner, at odds of 37-1, in the United Nations Handicap (gr. I) at Monmouth Park. Pletcher said it was possible that Harlan's Holiday might run in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) on Aug. 2, but also said the colt might not start again until the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) on Aug. 16... Ward said that Hero's Tribute probably won't run until later in the meeting, in an allowance or the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap... Edward P. Evans' multiple stakes winner Gygistar will make his first start since February in the third race on Friday. The 4-year-old Propector's Gamble gelding underwent surgery during the winter to have a chip removed from a knee. His goal, trainer Mark Hennig said, is Forego (gr. I) on Aug. 31... Heavy rain fell on the track during Thursday's program and prompted NYRA officials to move Friday's sixth race to the main track. The featured Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. II) is still scheduled to be run on the grass. All four grass races were washed off the turf Wednesday. No flat races were scheduled for Thursday. The only grass race run during the first two days of the meeting was a steeplechase on Thursday. Three turf races, including the Diana Handicap (gr.I), are scheduled for Saturday's program... Warhol, a $4 million Saint Ballado colt now owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, is scheduled to arrive at Saratoga's quarantine barn on Saturday. He is expected to run in the National Museum and Hall of Fame Stakes on (gr.IIT) on Aug, 4 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Purchased at the 2001 Keeneland July sale by Michael Tabor and Mr. John Magnier, he was winless in three European starts.