05/08/2012 2:12PM

Belmont Park: Diablo Stakes draws salty, fast bunch of sprinters

Barbara D. Livingston
Travelin Man wins the Sir Shackleton at Gulfstream Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Seven older males with a combined 49 wins and more than $3 million in earnings clash in Thursday’s $85,000 Diablo overnight stakes, a six-furlong race that could serve as a stepping-stone to the Met Mile on May 28 or the True North Handicap on June 9.

Travelin Man and Jersey Town, who battled tooth and nail through supersonic splits on the Florida Derby program, will vie for favoritism. Travelin Man missed Gulfstream Park’s 6 1/2-furlong track record by .18 of a second in the Sir Shackleton, edging Jersey Town by a half-length after a pitched battle. That win upped Travelin Man’s record to 4 for 5 at Gulfstream for trainer Todd Pletcher, but he has been out of the money, and beaten more than 36 lengths, in three starts outside the Sunshine State.

Jersey Town has not won since his 34-1 shocker in the 2010 Cigar Mile, but four outings last year included a second in the Grade 1 Forego. After a sharp effort in his seasonal bow, Jersey Town was scratched from the recent Westchester Stakes by trainer Barclay Tagg.

This Ones for Phil, a multiple stakes winner who won a $100,000 claimer at Aqueduct on Feb. 17 and led to the final yards of the General George three days later, returns from a well deserved freshening. Ramon Dominguez, who has ridden five of the seven horses in the Diablo at one time or another, stays with the Richard Dutrow Jr.-trained gelding after a near-miss in the seven-furlong General George.

“He ran great, we were just second best,” Dominguez said. “He was not a tired horse at all; he even galloped out strong.”

Flat Bold, who threaded the proverbial needle in the stretch to win an overnight stakes on the last day of Aqueduct’s inner track meet, returns for Rudy Rodriguez. The gelding picks up Rose Napravnik, who is fresh off a history-making ride on Believe You Can in the Kentucky Oaks and is third in the standings after the first eight racing days here.

The pace will be hotly contested. In addition to This Ones for Phil, who is committed to hustle from the rail, Comedero and Royal Currier like to mix it up early.

Comedero suffered a hock injury while training toward the Thanksgiving Day Handicap at Fair Grounds, but returned three months later to win his fourth stakes from as many starts at Oaklawn Park.

“He always has natural speed,” said Michael Stidham, who has saddled the 5-year-old for nine of his 11 victories.

Royal Currier, Pennsylvania’s 2011 horse of the year on the strength of two wins at Parx Racing, including a track-record win in the Gallant Bob Stakes, makes his first start since successfully toting 130 pounds in a starter handicap at Aqueduct. Prior to that, he began the year by setting the pace in the Tom Fool Handicap and the Sunshine Millions Sprint for Patricia Farro.