09/26/2012 2:20PM

Belmont: Crossbow set to try the grass

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Tom Keyser
On turf or dirt, Crossbow figures to be prominent early.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is hoping a change of surface does for Crossbow what it did for Questing.

After disappointing in his last three stakes tries on dirt, Crossbow is scheduled to make his turf debut in Friday’s $80,000 Home of the Free Stakes at Belmont Park. The Home of the Free is scheduled for seven furlongs on the Widener turf course, though rain is in the forecast.

Earlier this year, McLaughlin moved Questing from the turf to the dirt, and she won three consecutive races, including the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks and Grade 1 Alabama.

Crossbow began the year with two front-running victories over Aqueduct’s inner dirt track. When he started competing in graded stakes he finished fifth in the True North at Belmont and third in the James Marvin at Saratoga. Most recently, he finished last in a four-horse field in the overnight Affiliate Stakes here on Sept. 8.

“He has siblings that have turfed, he’s by Bernardini. We thought it might be a good time and place to try it,” McLaughlin said. “There’s rain in the forecast also, so if it rains off we would run. But we would like to make sure that we’re not missing anything.”

On either surface, Crossbow figures to be prominent early. If the race remains on turf, Crossbow would likely have to deal with a pace challenge from Yield Bogey, who has shown speed in the majority of his one-turn grass races at Belmont.

If Crossbow is not effective on the turf, or is done in up front, the race could set up for Upgrade, who won the Grade 3 Jaipur going seven furlongs here in June. He did not handle the bog that was Saratoga’s turf course in the Grade 2 Fourstardave and most recently finished last, beaten three lengths, in the Grade 3 Cliff Hanger at Monmouth. Upgrade is reunited with John Velazquez, aboard for the Jaipur victor.

Night Officer attempts to stretch out to seven furlongs for the first time in his career. He has won 3 of his last 4 races, including a win going six furlongs for $50,000 claiming here in July. He was claimed out of that race by Bruce Brown.

Boots Ahead wheels back just 12 days after winning a one-mile optional claimer here for David Jacobson. Beau Choix, Hoofit, and Surfrider complete the field on turf.

Jersey Town, entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Kelso, is in as a main-track only entrant in this spot, as is Hillswick.