05/01/2012 3:11PM

Belmont: Al Khali, Air Support bring back class into Milesius

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Al Khali, winner of the 2010 Bowling Green, returns to stakes company Thursday at Belmont Park following an allowance win at Keeneland.

Graded stakes winners Al Khali and Air Support head an interesting mix of eight older turf-meant runners in Thursday’s $90,000 Milesius overnight stakes at Belmont Park.

Scheduled for 1 1/4 miles on the inner course, the race also attracted Slow Pace and Moryba, the beaten favorites in the last two renewals of the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz Handicap; Pocket Cowboys, whose three wins on turf at Belmont include the 2010 Mohawk and last year’s Kingston; and Hailstone, the runner-up in the recent Grade 2 Pan American.

Hailstone has won only twice, but grabbed a share of three graded stakes last year at Woodbine before being purchased by Marc Keller and Bobby Ribaudo, who developed English-bred Grand Couturier to win the Sword Dancer Invitational in 2007 and 2008.

“We were trying to buy some horses in Europe, but it’s difficult because there’s such a market for them in Hong Kong now,” Ribaudo explained. “This is a good spot cutting back from a mile and a half. He’s only won a couple races in his life, but he made more money running second in the Pan American than he would have by winning a ‘two-other than.’ This race will tell us if we’re good enough for something like the Manhattan,” a Grade 1 race on June 9.

Al Khali, who began his career in Peru, won the 2009 Saranac and 2010 Bowling Green Handicap for Bill Mott. He has ran extensively in top-level races ever since, including a fourth in last year’s Manhattan, and a close third in the Northern Dancer to conclude 2011. After finishing off the board in the Donn Handicap in his 6-year-old bow, he returned to turf at Keeneland for an impressive allowance win from off the pace.

Air Support won the Pilgrim here as a 2-year-old for Shug McGaughey, before racing too close to the early pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and tiring late. He was then transformed into a deep closer for a limited 3-year-old season, one that began with a win in the Transylvania in April and ended with a win in the Virginia Derby in July. He was a bit rusty finishing fifth behind Al Khali last month, but figures to improve after a bullet workout last Friday.

Barclay Tagg entered Kindergarden Kid and Sky Blazer for turf.

Birdrun, Praetereo, Redeemed, and Tech Fall entered dirt only.