06/20/2011 5:08PM

Belmont Park: Dark Thunder meeting old foe

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Debra A. Roma
After finishing seventh in the Maryland Sprint Handicap, Safety Check will add blinkers.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Dark Thunder and Safety Check were separated by a nose when they finished second and third in what was their career debut in May 2010 at Parx Racing. Their careers have gone similarly in the 13 months since then, and Wednesday the two cross paths again as the ones to beat in a six-furlong allowance feature at Belmont Park.

Dark Thunder and Safety Check both qualify for this race on the "never won three races" condition while the other three members of the field -- Starforaday, My Golden Opinion, and W.W. Lady's Man -- are in for the optional claiming price of $35,000.
Dark Thunder has 1 win and 2 seconds from 4 career starts. He began his career in the barn of Ramon Preciado and went 1 for 3 last summer. Dark Thunder had been off for 10 months when he made his 4-year-old debut for new trainer Todd Pletcher last month, winning a first-level allowance race by three lengths after dueling inside of Strategic Move and drawing clear inside the final three-sixteenths. He ran seven furlongs in 1:23.48 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

"He had been training like he was going to run well and has continued to train well since then," said Pletcher, who actually prefers the six furlongs this race affords for Dark Thunder.

John Velazquez will ride Dark Thunder from the outside post.

Safety Check, a son of Empire Maker out of the champion sprinter Safely Kept, went 1 for 3 to begin his career before going to the sidelines for 10 1/2 months. He returned with a first-level allowance win, dueling outside of Fastus Cactus before drawing clear inside the final furlong to win by 3 3/4 lengths and earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

He came back in the Grade 2 Maryland Sprint Handicap and finished seventh, beaten 10 1/2 lengths by Ventana in the nine-horse field.

"He tried to take a hold of him, and you can never take a horse out of how he likes to run," said trainer Alan Goldberg. "At least I can't."

Goldberg felt that Safety Check "was all over the place" in the Maryland Sprint stakes, so he will put blinkers on the colt for this race, in which he will break from post 3 under Ramon Dominguez.

If Dark Thunder and Safety Check wear each other out on the front end, the 8-year-old Starforaday or the 7-year-old My Golden Opinion will try to pick up the pieces. Starforaday is only 1 for 14 since winning the 2008 Maryland Sprint Handicap, but that win came at Belmont. My Golden Opinion won this same conditioned race going 6 1/2 furlongs on May 30.