10/12/2011 4:03PM

Belmont Park: Dust and Diamonds returns off sharp score

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ELMONT, N.Y. – Dust and Diamonds, a blowout winner off a 49-week layoff at Saratoga, breaks from the outside in a field of seven and will be favored to win right back for her red-hot connections in Friday’s $54,000 optional claiming feature.

In two starts for former trainer Mike Trombetta as a 2-year-old, Dust and Diamonds was a front-running debut winner at Laurel over eventual Tempted Stakes winner Full Moon Blues, before rallying to finish third in the Presque Isle Debutante.

The Padua Stable homebred was sidelined until closing weekend at the Spa, when she set a blistering pace wiring a first-level allowance at 5-1 for new trainer Steve Asmussen.

Dust and Diamonds will be a considerably shorter price in the wake of a 96 Beyer Figure, and the presence of Corey Nakatani, whose six-win Saturday included four for this barn.

“She’s doing great since she came to Belmont, and we’re excited to have her in,” said assistant trainer Toby Sheets.

Set to oppose Dust and Diamonds, from the rail out, are Emily Allstar, Honest Gold, Taconic Victory, Precious Soul, Tap for Luck and Cinco de Mayo Mio.

Emily Allstar, a stakes-winning New Jersey-bred mare, was entered for the $50,000 claim price.

Tap for Luck, last year’s Tempted runner-up, and Cinco de Mayo Mio, a first-level allowance winner here a year ago to the day, look to rebound after off-the-board finishes in different races on a sloppy track Sept. 23.

Knickerbocker, Athenia top Saturday card

Saturday’s co-featured Knickerbocker and Athenia, a pair of Grade 3, $100,000 stakes scheduled for turf, are the penultimate graded turf stakes of the New York season.

Among nine older males entered in the 1  1/8-mile Knickerbocker are Yummy With Butter, coming off wins in the Oceanport and Cliff Hanger at Monmouth; Boisterous, idle since running fifth as the favorite in the Sword Dancer; Jimmy Simms, second in the recent Presque Isle Downs Mile; and Mr. Ryder, who has won five of six starts this year.

Mr. Ryder’s five wins have come at five different tracks, capped by a score in the Sussex Stakes in his last start July 16 for Christophe Clement. “He was supposed to run in a prep race [the Third Martini overnight stakes Sept.  23], but I passed on that because I didn’t think he liked soft ground so well,” said Clement, who has won the Knickerbocker four times.

Also entered were Boots Ahead, who won the Third Martini last out for George Weaver; Center Divider, second in the opening-day Bowling Green; Followmyfootsteps; Mata Keranjang; and Sleepless Knight.

Unbridled Humor, who ran her record to five for six taking last month’s Noble Damsel for Graham Motion, looms the one to catch and beat in the 1 1/16-mile Athenia. However, the Clement-trained Denomination, idle since winning the Grade 3 Violet on May 30, may vie for favoritism. “I hope I’ve got her fit enough – I’m not sure,” said Clement.

Aquitaine, Countess Lemonade, Nefertiti, Stormy Dixie, Thai Haku and Thundering Emilia also entered for turf. C C’s Pal entered dirt only.