06/26/2013 3:01PM

Belmont Park: Bernie the Jet cuts back in class and distance


An eclectic group of 3-year-olds will contest Friday’s $100,000 Gone Fishin overnight stakes, a six-furlong dash scheduled for the inner turf.

With 10 grass races under his belt already, Bernie the Jet has more turf-racing experience than Dark Roast, Skylander, Spiral Stair, Officer Alex, and Weekend Hideaway combined.

Bernie the Jet spent most of his juvenile campaign setting the early pace in routes for Gary Contessa, with the notable exception of an off-the-turf maiden win at Saratoga that was shortened from 1 1/16 miles to seven furlongs. Contessa theorized that Bernie the Jet would be more effective were he able to sit just off the pace and that he probably wouldn’t be a speed horse sprinting on the turf.

That assessment was proven correct May 1, when Bernie the Jet stalked from third position before pulling away in the stretch to win a first-level allowance sprint on the inner course.

Bernie the Jet cuts back to six furlongs after a wide trip in the Grade 3 Hill Prince on June 15.

“I love the race for him, I just wish I had more time between starts,” Contessa said. “He’s okay on the dirt, too, so if it comes off I’d think about running anyway.”

The New York-bred Weekend Hideaway, a dual stakes winner last year for Phil Serpe, and second as the favorite in the recent Mike Lee Stakes, tries turf for the first time, as does Officer Alex, a Pennsylvania-bred based in Kentucky with Lynn Whiting.

Officer Alex was briefly on the Triple Crown trail at Oaklawn Park, but off-the-board finishes in the Smarty Jones and the Southwest convinced Whiting to shorten back up.

“He had bad luck in the Smarty Jones, and that [Bob] Baffert horse” – Super Ninety Nine – “was just too tough for us in the Southwest,” said Whiting. “That made us switch back to sprinting.”

Officer Alex promptly won back-to-back races, including the Bachelor Stakes. He has won four of six starts at distances up to seven furlongs.

Skylander has been beaten twice by Bernie the Jet, but beat that rival when he captured a five-furlong turf dash at Gulfstream over the winter. The Wesley Ward-trained gelding has been idle since winning a $20,000 claimer on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface.

Dark Roast and Spiral Stair step up after turf-sprint maiden wins earlier at the meet.

Eastwood, The Truth and K G, and Whiskey Romeo entered for dirt only. The latter improved to four wins from five starts when he wired the Trippi overnight stakes opening day for Tony Dutrow.

Saturday stakes drawn

Fields were drawn Wednesday for Saturday’s stakes twin-bill of the Grade 2 New York Stakes for fillies and mares and the Grade 3 Victory Ride for 3-year-old fillies, respectively the eighth and ninth races on an 11-race program.

The $200,000 New York, from the rail out: Mystical Star, Anjaz, Regalo Mia, Tannery, Minakshi, Starformer, Dream Peace, and Lady of Shamrock.

The $150,000 Victory Ride, from the rail out: Fusaichiswonderful, Native One, Teen Pauline, Baby J, Bridgehampton, I’m Mom’s Favorite, Lighthouse Bay, and Kauai Katie.