09/06/2012 2:42PM

Belmont Park: Air Support must adapt to slow pace in Bowling Green Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Air Support preps for the Bowling Green last Sunday at Saratoga.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Shug McGaughey hopes it won’t be déjà vu all over again when he sends out Air Support as the probable favorite in Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Bowling Green Stakes, the featured event on Belmont Park’s 10-race opening-day card.

In last Saturday’s Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga, McGaughey saddled even-money favorite Data Link in a short field with no pace. Dominus, trying turf for the first time, got loose on the lead and beat Data Link by 1 1/4 lengths.

In the Bowling Green, shortened this year to 1 1/4 miles from 1 3/8 miles, Air Support, a closer, faces only four rivals in what appears to be another paceless affair. Bombaguia, who tries stakes company for the first time, looms as the potential lone speed, while Brujo de Olleros, a Group 1 winner in Uruguay, tries turf for the first time after scratching out of Friday night’s $250,000 Presque Isle Mile.

McGaughey, who trains Air Support for Stuart Janney III, believes Air Support, who will be ridden by John Velazquez, can adapt to the expected slow pace.

“I think Johnny will have him up in the race,” McGaughey said. “Going a mile and a quarter, I don’t think we’ll have to move quite as early. I think it’ll be fine.”

Air Support, who is winless in five starts this year, could not overcome a slow pace when finishing third at 3-5 in an allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 6. However, he has come back with two extremely good works over the Oklahoma turf course.

“He came out of that race really well, he trained excellent, excellent before we came here, and he’s done really well since we got here,” McGaughey said.

Trainer John Kimmel only entered Bombaguia after the racing office alerted him to the short field. Bombaguia has two wins and a second from four starts since being gelded earlier this year.

“He likes this racetrack. Everybody looks like they’re out-of-the-clouds kind of horses,” Kimmel said. “He might have speed to be dangerous on this racetrack. We don’t have any other place to go; the horse is good ever since we cut him.”

Trainer Graham Motion scratched Brujo de Olleros out of the Presque Isle Mile because he didn’t like post 12. Though Brujo de Olleros has raced only on dirt, he has breezed exclusively over Fair Hill’s synthetic surface, giving Motion hope he will handle turf.

“If you were ever going to try to do something a little different, this looked like a good opportunity to do it,” Motion said. “I think he handled synthetic very well, which would make you feel he’ll handle the grass.”

Newsdad won the Grade 2 Pan American at 1 1/2 miles in March, but is winless in three starts since. Trainer Bill Mott may not elect to run Newsdad if the turf is soft.

Brilliant Speed is winless in seven starts since taking the Grade 3 Saranac last September at Saratoga. He is winless in five starts this year, the last four races have been against Grade 1 company.

Redeemed, the Brooklyn Handicap winner, was entered in the unlikely event the race is moved to the dirt.

With only five runners, the Bowling Green has been carded as race 3 (1:54 p.m.).