09/18/2007 3:43PM

The Rest of Week Two


In dribs and drabs, we've looked at Days 1, 2 and 3 and Day 7 of Belmont Fall, but what about 4, 5, 6 and 8? I'm finally caught up, so read on for highlights:

Wednesday, Sept. 12

*Race 1: Be careful throwing out everyone coming out of this N1x statebred dirt route next time. The race came up almost impossibly slow, earning a Beyer of 64 even though victorious La Dainian ran a 71 and a 75 in his last two starts. But it sometimes pays to treat the first race of the day a little differently at Belmont, especially when it's the first race following a two-day break.

*Race 2: This 2-year-old statebred dash had the look of a potential key race, with the first three finishers running above par in their racing debuts. Giant Moon, a Giant's Causeway colt from the thriving Schosberg barn, beat 7-10 Pletcher favorite In P.A.'s Honour in 57.41, earning a Beyer of 83.

*Race 7: Operation Red Dawn sure runs well fresh. On May 2, he returned from an eight-month layoff to win his N1x, and here in his first start since then, he won this N2x turf route at 10-1. Finishing seventh here at 32-1 was Friar, a half-brother to Pulpit and the $2.9 million yearling sold at Keeneland last week.

*Race 8: Stunt Man, the longest shot in the field of four assembled for the $75k More Than Ready Stakes, swept past 4-5 E Z Warrior and 8-5 Tiz Wonderful, scoring by 2 1/4 lengths over the latter. Tiz Wonderful was vanned off after the finish with a ruptured suspensory ligament in his right hind ankle, ending a highly promising career. Tiz Wonderful was one of the nation's top three 2-year-olds last year when he won all three of his starts including the Kentucky Jockey Club over Any Given Saturday. It's still difficult to believe his handlers misread him so badly this year that they thought facing Street Sense in the Jim Dandy was a good spot to bring him back off a nine-month layoff. As for Stunt Man, he's now won two stakes and earned over $250k since Contessa claimed him out of a $25k statebred maiden-claimer in March.

Thursday, Sept. 13

*Race 3: Graham Motion may have a grass miler with a future in Rebellion, who won his third straight with a mild upset victory in the $76k Steinlen. The 4-year-old Mozart-Last Resort colt was just 1 for 9 in Euroope but has turned it around here and jumped up from allowance company at Colonial and Laurel to win the Steinlen in 1:22.51 on the Widener, good for a 94 Beyer.

*Race 5: Unresricted, Darley's A.P. Indy-Composure 3-year-old who made a strong debut at Saratoga, appeared to take a bad step on the very fast track and broke down badly on the backstretch. Both he and Gruffles, who fell over him, had to be euthanized after the race. Jockeys John Velazquez and Javier Castellano escaped with cuts and bruises. Meanwhile, Allen Jerkens firster Merchant Marine, a 3-year-old Tiznow gelding, held off Joppa Flats by a head in a blazing 1:34.57 for a mile, 0.20 seconds faster than this year's Met Mile, good for a Beyer of 91. The day's four remaining races were on grass, and Friday's track was significantly (11 Beyer points) slower.

*Race 6: The only three sons of foreign-bred stallions ran 1-2-3 in this 2-year-old grass maiden route, combining for a $560 extacta and $2k tri. Sundaysunday (by Sunday Break-Jpn), held off 59-1 German-bred Lieutenant (by Black Sam Bellamy-Ire) with favored Cosmic (by El Prado-Ire) third. Cosmic, a Phipps homebred who rallied into a slow pace from last, has run greenly in both starts and should improve.

Friday, Sept. 14

*Race 3: Baby Bird, who seemed on the verge of breaking through to graded-stakes level while winning 3 of 6 starts last year, returned from 10 months off to win this N3x for older fillies by a head over the improving Windy. Baby Bird, a 4-year-old Rick Dutrow-trained Cape Town filly who was third in the G2 Cotillion last fall, ran the mile in 1:34.84 over a slower track than Thursday's, earning a 101 Beyer. It wouldn't be a shock to see her in the Beldame next time out.

*Race 8: Dutrow won his second of the day and fourth at the meet in this N2x feature with Diamond Isle, who may be ready to resume his stakes career of three years ago. The 5-year-old Gilded Time gelding, second in the Cradle and third in the G1 Breeders' Futurity as a 2-year-old of 2004, ran the mile in 1:34.64 (Beyer-103), beating the sharp Bribon by 1 3/4 lengths.

Sunday, Sept. 16

*Races 2 and 5: A pair of second-time starters looked good winning the two divisions of this 2-year-old filly maiden special. In race 2, Porte Bonheur (Hennessy) opened five through a half in 45.05 and scored by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:10.54 over Carley firster New Chapter. In race 5, Overandabeauty (Grand Slam), second in Secret Gypsy's track-record debut at Saratoga, won a long stretch battle with Tazarine in 1:10.64.

*Race 3: Those 2-year-old fillies' races looked even better when in between them, Miss Tizzy needed 1:10.83 to win the $76k Dream Supreme Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Miss Tizzy, a Cee's Tizzy filly trained by Leroy Jolley, was the longest shot in the field of five at 16-1 and looked cooked in upper stretch but pulled clear to beat Quota by 1 3/4 lengths. Featherbed ran last with no apparent excuse as the 8-5 favorite, capping a miserable first eight days of the meet for Pletcher, 1-for-16 at the stand after his disappointing Saratoga. Since August 1st, Pletcher is 10-for-106 at NYRA tracks, after going 16-for-72 at them in the preceding 45 days, a drop from 22 to 9 percent.

Race 10: I'm still smarting from the finish to the week's nightcap race, where I needed 12-1 The Confidence Man for a $6,001 pick-four. Storm Boot Gold looked like one of several speedballs in the race but somehow shook clear, opened five lengths with a furlong to go, then began to shorten stride as The Confidence Man began to close in....missing by a diminishing neck at the wire. Oh well.

The standings after eight Belmont Fall cards look a little different from Saratoga's. Bill Mott and Pletcher have just one winner each from the first 76 races, while the usual downstate leaders are running to form:

Leading trainers
A Dutrow--4
R Dutrow--4

Leading jockeys
C Velasquez--12

On to week 3.

--Those Rags to Riches buttons from Saturday arent's exactly burning up the bidding lines on eBay, where none is currently fetching a bid of higher than $3. Pictures of her as a yearling, and winning the Belmont Stakes, are more popular.

One commenter thought the buttons were bad karma because he didn't remember any having been given out since the ill-fated Ruffian-Foolish Pleasure match race. That didn't sound right so I went digging through a dresser drawer and found the four others pictured here. I'm pretty sure there were others, including a red Lady's Secret one. Anyone remember any others?