09/06/2008 11:49AM

Waiting for Hanna


12:45 pm: Bet early if not often today at Belmont: They're going to try to run 10 races between 1 p.m. and 4:53 p.m., shaving about six minutes from the usual gap between each race, trying to get the card in before the worst of the tropical storm hits Long Island.

Here's the deal so far on a dark, humid, tropical day where I'll be playing from home:

--It rained for several hours overnight, so the main track is "good" and the turf is being called yielding. Race 2 has been moved froom turf to dirt and the only other grass race on the card, the Grade 1 Garden City, will go off as early as 1:52 p.m.

--Indian Blessing has been scratched from the Grade 1 Ruffian, where post time is now scheduled for 4:26 p.m. Spring Waltz will now be the favorite. Baffert still has a Ruffian starter in Tough Tiz's Sis, though it's hard to know quite what to maker of her wet-track form: The only three times she has finished worse than third in a 19-race career are her only three starts on wet tracks, but considering what they were -- her career debut, the Kentucky Oaks and the BC Distaff -- maybe she wasn't going to run well anyway.

--There's a $38,907 pick-6 carryover from Opening Day, and the sequence is a rarity for Belmont: An all-dirt pick-6 without a single off-the-turfer. Fields of 7, 8, 8, 7, 8 and 10. The first leg, originally scheduled for 3:07, could now go as early as 2:42.

3:15 pm: Here comes the first batch of rain after the first half of the 10-race card went off under windy, humid and threatening skies.

Backseat Rhythm won the G1 Garden City in a sort of all-Big Brown-camp finish, as the winner is owned by Paul Pompa, Big Brown's original owner and still a 25 percent stakeholder, and runners-up Pure Clan and Ariege are primarily owned by IEAH Stables. Pompa and trainer Pat Reynolds showcased two impressive grass 2-year-olds last year, Big Brown and Backseat Rhythm, who beat future GSW's Country Star and Mushka in her turf debut. Backseat Rhythm returned to the turf this summer, and after a pace-pressing trip where she finished 7th behind Pure Clan in the American Oaks, she returned to her late-running game winning the G2 Lake Placid last time out, earning a Beyer of 99, tops in today's field. Still, she was one of three 9-2 shots behind the even-money IEAH entry of the field's only G1 winners.

Backseat Rhythm relaxed early today, racing alongside Pure Clan as Raw Silk led Alwajeeha through moderate fractions of 25.36, 49.98, 1:14.72 and 1:39.55 over the yielding course. Backseat Rhythm took the overland route through the stretch as Pure Clan worked her way through inside her, and the two were a little tight in the run to the wire, with Bakseat Rhythm prevailing by half a length in 1:51.82 for nine furlongs. Julien Leparoux, who rode Pure Clan, claimed foul against the winner and Castellano for possibly coming in under right-handed whipping. The stewards looked a repeated reruns of a rear view of the stretch run before deciding to leave the result alone.

The pick-6 started two races later and I made a moderate six-ticket play with two survivors after the first two legs. In the 5th, Violette firster Credit Limit ($10.00) won as an A, beating 2-1 Jerkens second-timer Who Plays Brahms. Pletcher dropdown Smarty Marty, pounded late to 2-1 favoritism, broke sharply but then took a funny step and was snatched up and ran an even fifth thereafter. Leg 2 was an inscrutable $10k claimer where I went six deep, virtually guaranteeing a victory by 2-1 favorite One Starry Nite ($6.90) as a B.

The live tickets:


They just announced that the main track has been sealed for the rest of the afternoon.

4:30 pm: We're into the tree-swaying-downpour portion of the storm program just in time for the Ruffian. The track was downgraded to sloppy after the 8th race, though it was plenty sloppy already for that event.

In the 7th, my two A's dingdonged to the wire with 5-2 Wolfson unfortunately getting there a long neck in front of rerallying 9-2 Dr. W, but the result remained uncertain for another five minutes after Bridgmohan claimed foul against the winner for coming over on him and Dr. W at the furlong pole. Much as I was rooting for a dq, the contact appeared incidental, Dr. W never lost position or momentum, and the stews probably did the right thing leaving it alone.

Arrrrr, racing without Tom Durkin to inspire him with a piratey bloodcry, ran fifth.

The 8th, a starter handicap for anyone who had run for a $14k tag since 1/1/06, was the mismatch it appeared on paper. Coyoteshighestcall ($4.10), third in the Claiming Crown Jewel last time out, carried 126 pounds, 8 to 13 more than his opponents, and still won in a romp.

Five minutes to post for the Ruffian. The Little Belle-Stage Luck Godolphin/Darley entry is a 5-2 favorite over Spring Waltz and Tough Tiz's Sis, both at 7-2.

4:45 pm:As noted earier, guess it was last year's Oaks and Distaff fields, rather than the sloppy tracks, that Tough Tiz's Sis didn't like. And I guess we know why Baffert scratched Inidian Blessing out of a Grade 1 race where she would have been a heavy favorite. Tough Tiz's Sis ($10.60) took over from Rite Moment after half a mile in 45.03, then opened up impressively to win the Ruffian by rainy daylight as Prado looked around and enjoyed the ride, beating 13-1 Copper State by 12 1/4 lengths. The winner got six furlongs in 1:09.04 and a mile in 1:34.03, finishing the 8.5f in splendid isolation and 1:40.46.

Nobody else in the race really fired at all, especially Spring Waltz and Little Belle, who checked in a distant fifth and sixth.

Tough Tiz's Sis, a 4-year-old Tiznow filly, has now won 8 of 20 career starts and two Grade 1's, the Ruffian and last year's Lady's Secret at Santa Anita, where she beat Hystericalady by a nose.

My three live pick-6's are the shortest ones, paying $2k to Vinnie Van Go and $3k to Aoja or Head Heart Hoof. All but one of the other seven starters are covered -- including $150k payoffs to Well Meant or Gold Prospect -- with only Hudson Heights capable of providing a $153 conso and a $150k carryover.

5:05 pm:Head Heart Hoof buried the field in the finale, opening up through an opening quarter in 22.60 and extending his lead thereafter, with fellow A's Vinnie Van Go and Aoja completing a chalky $81.50 triple. Counting consos, the $3,023 pick-6 got me about 2-1 on my money. Beats losing.

I wouldn't spend a lot of time on Sunday's card until we're sure that Belmont hasn't washed away by the morning. Everything's supposed to blow through by then, but it's going to pour for hours, and it's a safe bet that tomorrow's 1st, 2nd and 10th, if run at all, will be off the turf.