10/06/2011 4:08PM

Belmont: Brilliant Speed looking sharp for Jamaica

Barbara D. Livingston
Brilliant Speed, with John Velazquez riding, wins the Saranac at Saratoga.

ELMONT, N.Y. – One might think a schedule that includes seven stakes – including starts in two of the three Triple Crown races – might take a bit of a toll on a horse. When it comes to Brilliant Speed, trainer Tom Albertrani believes the opposite is true.

“Actually, he’s better now than he’s ever been,” Albertrani said Thursday. “He looks a lot stronger, he’s been carrying a lot more weight. Usually he’s always been difficult to keep the weight on. He actually looks better now in his last two races than he ever has. I think that’s just due to the fact he’s just maturing.”

Saturday, Brilliant Speed will seek his second Grade 1 win of the year when he heads a field of eight 3-year-olds entered in the $250,000 Jamaica Handicap, run at 1 1/8 miles over Belmont’s inner turf course.

Brilliant Speed enters the Jamaica off a 2 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3 Saranac at Saratoga on Sept. 4. That was his first start on turf since he finished third – but was placed second – in the Hallandale Beach at Gulfstream in February. Since then, he won the Grade 1 Blue Grass over Keeneland’s Polytrack, finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Belmont Stakes, and fifth in the Jim Dandy.

Albertrani viewed the Jim Dandy as a throwout, since Brilliant Speed came back as though he hadn’t run in a race. He was very sharp in the Saranac, run over firm turf.

“He came out of the Saranac in good shape and has been training well since,” Albertrani said.

Albertrani said his only concern would be the possibility of soft turf. But with dry weather conditions expected through Saturday, he is hopeful the course will firm up.

“He ran over soft turf in the fall, and I don’t know if he really appreciated soft ground,” Albertrani said. “I think his better races are on firmer ground. With the weather the way it’s going to be, I think we’ll be in good shape.”

The European-based trainer Jeremy Noseda, who last year won the Grade 3 Gotham with Awesome Act, has shipped Western Aristocrat here for the Jamaica. A son of Mr. Greeley, Western Aristocrat has won 3 of 6 starts, most recently an allowance race over the Polytrack at Kempton.

On Thursday, Western Aristocrat breezed an easy three furlongs in 40.65 seconds over the inner turf course under jockey Corey Nakatani, who rides him in the Jamaica.

“Typical European horse, kind of out there looking around,” Nakatani said. “When you put those horses in company they’re different. He seemed to get over the ground good. Hopefully, he’ll put his best foot forward.”

Seal Cove finished seventh to Brilliant Speed in the Saranac over firm ground. He won two previous starts over good ground and his connections are hoping the turf doesn’t firm up by Sunday.

Trainer Chad Brown is also hoping for firmer ground for Casino Host, who shortens up to 1 1/8 miles after finishing third in the Virginia Derby and fifth in the Secretariat, both at 1 1/4 miles.

“If I get that kind of ground I’d say he’d run very well the way he’s training,” Brown said. “If the ground is soft, then I got to consider what I’m doing, but the horse couldn’t be doing any better.”

Top Surprize and Wilkinson, first and third, respectively, in the Summing Stakes here on Sept. 16, Sky Blazer, and Rustler Hustler complete the field.