04/25/2013 1:45PM

Belmont: Big Screen tries to avoid bounce in Westchester

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Big Screen comes into the Westchester after recording a 110 Beyer Speed Figure against optional claimers at Aqueduct.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Big Screen appears ready for his close-up.

Plagued by some physical issues early in his career, Big Screen has blossomed into a seemingly serious race horse as a 4-year-old. More will be learned Saturday when he takes on seven rivals in a salty renewal of the Grade 3, $150,000 Westchester Stakes at Belmont Park.

The Westchester, run as a one-turn mile on the dirt, is the local prep for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap here on May 27.

Big Screen, a son of Speightstown, had 1 win from his first 9 starts. At 2, he needed time off to have a chip removed. At 3, he was stopped on after injuring an ankle, according to Cot Campbell, president of the Dogwood Stable partnership that owns Big Screen.

Big Screen, trained by Tom Albertrani, returned off a six-month layoff to win a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 24 by six lengths. Twenty-four days later, he finished second behind Cigar Street in a second-level allowance. Cigar Street came back to win the Grade 3 Skip Away Stakes and is now 3 for 3 since returning from a layoff.

Meanwhile, Big Screen shipped to New York and romped to a 9 1/4-length victory in a second-level allowance race over Aqueduct’s inner track on March 23. He ran a mile in 1:36.48 and earned a 110 Beyer Speed Figure for the performance. Many handicappers will wonder if Big Screen will regress, or bounce, off such a big figure.

“I think he’s had enough time. It’s been a good month,” Albertrani said. “His work [Tuesday] was as good as it was going into his last race. I’m getting all good indications that he’s ready to go again.”

Irad Ortiz Jr. rides Big Screen from post 7.

Flat Out is undefeated in three starts at Belmont Park, having won back-to-back runnings of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Grade 2 Suburban in 2011. Trainer Bill Mott is running in here “to find out” if the horse could be effective at a one-turn mile with the Met Mile in the back of his mind.

Rattlesnake Bridge, the 2011 Travers runner-up, returned from a 16-month layoff to win a second-level allowance race at Gulfstream on March 30. Rattlesnake Bridge’s layoff was precipitated by mostly minor issues, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who noted that he did more with the colt in the morning to have him ready for his return.

Rattlesnake Bridge, like Big Screen, appears to want to stalk the pace, though finding a true speed horse in this field is somewhat difficult.

“Everybody has the same style. Everybody’s very close,” McLaughlin said. “Several of them are faster than us early. I don’t know where we’re going to be stalking from – second or sixth.”

Either one of two Todd Pletcher-trained runners – Mordi’s Miracle or Cross Traffic – could play out as the speed. Mordi’s Miracle is questionable to run, however, as he drew the rail again. Noting his past difficulties when breaking from the rail, Pletcher scratched him out of last Saturday’s $1.5 Charles Town Classic after being assigned the rail.

Cross Traffic, a son of Unbridled’s Song out of the Grade 1-winning mare Stop Traffic, is 2 for 2 and coming off a 7 1/2-length win in a first-level allowance at Gulfstream on March 10.

“When you have a pedigree like his you expect big things,” said Michael McCarthy, Pletcher’s assistant. “He’s very athletic. It’s come pretty easy for him up to this point. He steps into the deep end of the pool on the weekend.”

Pants On Fire, Norman Asbjornson, and Winslow Homer are all capable of winning this on their best day.