07/12/2011 2:36PM

Belmont Park: Connie and Michael returns on the turf

Barbara D. Livingston
Connie and Michael will return to the races on Thursday at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Connie and Michael, last year’s Mother Goose runner-up and sidelined since running sixth in the Alabama Stakes, makes her seasonal debut against seven other 4-year-old fillies in Thursday’s $54,000 optional claiming feature scheduled for the Widener turf at seven furlongs.

Connie and Michael has shown some class and a good deal of versatility through six career starts, the first five of which came for trainer Ken McPeek. On the strength of a runaway debut on Keeneland’s synthetic track, she was second choice in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, beaten less than five lengths. She was favored in the Miesque on turf at Hollywood Park and finished a close third in her final start at 2.

Connie and Michael drew away to win her 3-year-old bow on the main track at Churchill Downs and was a bang-up second in the Mother Goose soon afterward. She was then transferred to trainer Dominick Schettino and entered in the Coaching Club American Oaks, but scratched due to an abscess in her right front hoof.

“We gave her some time off after the Alabama and so far she’s doing pretty well,” said Schettino, who has overseen Connie and Michael’s three straight bullet works on the main track. “She runs well fresh, so we’ll see if we can get this second-level condition out of the way and go from there.”

Chief among her opponents are Ultimate Class, the pacesetter in the Sands Point and Pebbles Stakes in two previous starts at Belmont; In Te Domine, a New York Stallion winner making her second start of the year; and Exchange Funds, scratched from an overnight stakes Saturday.

Forest Crown, Honest Gold, Indian Burn, and Tia also entered for turf. Full of Gut entered dirt only.

◗ Celebrity chef and racehorse owner Bobby Flay will deliver the keynote address at the National Museum of Racing’s 2011 Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Aug. 12.