Saratoga Notebook: Left Bank's Recovery Continues; Buddha Nears Return; Farda Amiga Seeks Alabama; Shopping for Love's Fan Club

Left Bank continues to recover from emergency abdominal surgery, trainer Todd Pletcher said Thursday. The multiple graded stakkes winner was stricken Saturday morning.

"We're pretty optimistic that everything is going in the right direction," Pletcher said. "It's obviously day to day, but the way things sound right now it's kind of on schedule for him to maybe go home to Kentucky on Monday Tuesday if everythingcontinues to go well."

Later Saturday, Schuylerville (gr.II) winner Freedom's Daughter became sick. She died early Monday morning of what Pletcher said was Colitis X, leaving Pletcher and his staff to deal with a double dose of adversity.

"I guess all you can do is keep going, you know," he said. "You don't have many options. Fortunately we have other ones to take care of. You just try to stay focused on what you're doing."

Pletcher said that when problems arise, second-guessing is inevitable.

"You do that every day in this game," he said. "Every time you lead one over there that gets beat, you think, `Did I do something wrong, can I do something different?' That's the natural response to these two situations, of all the things you can do and all the bases you can cover."

Farda Amiga Seeks Alabama Upset
Shortly after 9 a.m. Thursday, trainer Paulo Lobo made the short walk across the paddock from the stakes barn to the to racing office to enter Farda Amiga in Saturday's Alabama (gr. I).

Farda Amiga got sick after winning the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) on May 3 and hasn't raced in three months. In the Alabama, she will face six other graded stakes winners: Jilbab, Nonsuch Bay, Bella Bellucci, Smok'n Frolic, Allamerican Bertie and You.

Lobo said Farda Amiga handled the ship from California on Wednesday without any problems.

"She arrived here yesterday at 4 o'clock," he said. "She ate the night feed perfect. She went to the track today only to do a slow gallop. Very nice."

Lobo said he liked what he's seen of Saratoga Race Course.

"My big concern is about the weather," he said, "but today is cooler and I saw on the Weather Channel that on Saturday the temperature is coming down a little bit."

Thursday was the sixth consecutive day that the air temperature was in the 90s. Since the meeting opened on July 24, there have been 13 days of 90-degree temperatures. According to Phillip Falconer, a certified consulting meteorologist in Scotia, N.Y., the recent averages for 90-degree days in the Saratoga area are four in July and two in August.

Shopping for Love's Fan Club
Don George of North Adams, Mass. spent part of Thursday morning at the stakes barn taking photos of Shopping for Love as she walked the shedrow cooling out.

George co-owns the 5-year-old New York-bred mare with Dennis D'Arcangelo, his friend since they were in high school. They purchased the daughter of Not for Love for $15,000 and have watched her earn $519,344 in 22 career starts.

During his youth, George said he exercised horses, He took out his training license in 1970 and trained horses at the now-defunt Green Mountain Park in Pownal, Vt. and on the Masschusetts fair circuit. He operates a fuel busineess with
his brother.

At 122-pounds, Shopping for Love, trained by Ken Nesky, is the co-highweight in the $75,000 Yaddo Handicap for state-breds. She will ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, theleading rider at the meeting.

"This is the only game where you can be in the minors for 35 years, you get a good horse and you're in the major leagues with Jerry Bailey riding your horse," George said, smiling. "Having Jerry Bailey ride your horse is like having Pedro Martinez pitch for your baseball team."

George said a bus load of 55 people wearing Shopping for Love t-shirts will make the 50-mile trip from Western Massachusetts Friday to watch the mare run.

"They're people who love horse racing, fans," he said. "To them, she's like a major league ballplayer."

Critical Eye to Personal Ensign
Coming off her impressive allowance win 10 days ago, Critical Eye is being pointed toward the Personal Ensign (gr. I) Aug. 23.

Trainer Scott Schwartz, who also nominated the 5-year-old Dynaformer mare to Friday's Yaddo for New York-breds on grass, said she needed to prove she was still up for open competition.

Sent off at 3-1, Critical Eye rallied from last to a 3 3/4-length win, just her second victory in 10 starts dating back to last summer.

"She did what she had to do," Schwartz said Thursday. "She showed that she's still got it in her. That was the race that was the deciding factor of what she was going to do, and she passed with flying colors. She's doing very good."

Critical Eye is 3-for-6 lifetime at Saratoga, but went 0-for-2 last summer, beaten a combined 36 1/2 lengths in the Personal Ensign and its prep, the Go for Wand (gr.I).

"She's run some nice races at Saratoga, outside of last year," Schwartz said. "She never even ran. Ever since we came up here, she's been doing good. She's on top of her game. She's coming up to this race probably the best she's ever been in her life."

Buddha Nears Return
Wood Memorial winner Buddha is nearing his return to the racetrack, trainer Jim Bond said Thursday.

Scratched the day before the Kentucky Derby with a bruised foreleg, Buddha has been galloping for some time, but Bond has been cautious about giving him his first serious workout.

"Buddha's great, knock on wood," Bond said. "He's just driving me crazy."

Buddha has been sidelined with a pulled muscle in his hind end discovered in early July, which kept him from running in the Dwyer (gr. II) at Belmont Park and, ultimately, the Travers(gr. I).

"No speed works yet. We're close, but not there yet," Bond said. "He wants to do more, and I just can't let him do more. You see the other horses playing out there and racing, of course, and it drives you crazy as a trainer, because you have a lot of talent in the barn and you can't show it off yet. I've got a shiny new car in the garage, and I can't drive it.