06/21/2011 11:41AM

Belmont Park: Gantry, Higher Court try turf in optional claimer


ELMONT, N.Y. – Four allowance races are sprinkled throughout Thursday’s nine-race card at Belmont Park, with the most intriguing one being the first-level optional claimer scheduled for six furlongs on the inner turf course.

Gantry and Higher Court are only coming off maiden wins and are the most lightly raced members of this field, but look very playable.

Shoulder issues have limited the 4-year-old Gantry to just three starts in his career. He has not run since Nov. 8, when he overcame a slow start to win a maiden race at Parx by 3 3/4 lengths on the dirt. He is by Pulpit out of the dam Rhum, a New York-bred stakes-winning mare who went 7 for 16 on the turf, including a victory in the Ticonderoga at Belmont.

Gantry has worked previously on the turf at both Saratoga and Palm Meadows and was entered for the grass in his second career start two years ago, but that race came off the turf.

“We’ve always wanted to try him on the turf, he worked pretty well over it, and he’s got the pedigree on the bottom side to like it,” trainer Mike Hushion said.

John Velazquez rides from post 2.

Higher Court won his debut by six lengths in April over Keeneland’s Polytrack, running six furlongs in 1:08.85 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. He is by Shamardal, who went 6 for 6 on turf including three Group 1 victories in Europe. Trainer Tom Albertrani is hoping that Higher Court takes to the turf equally as well, but also is interested in trying the colt on the dirt at some point and would want to run if this race is rained off the turf.

“He’s got a turf pedigree and he worked very well on the dirt at Palm Meadows,” Albertrani said. “We ran him on an in-between surface first time out, mainly because we took a small string to Keeneland and it was a good chance to run there for his first time.”

Higher Court is coupled with his Darley Stable stablemate Opening Move, whose lone career victory came by 5 1/2 lengths in the mud sprinting over the inner track in March. Alan Garcia is named to ride for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Sheikh Mohammed, who operates Darley Stable, also has Percusionist entered under his Godolphin banner, but for some reason that is regarded as a separate betting interest.

The Kentucky-bred New Yawker has finished in the money in 9 of 10 starts on Belmont’s turf course, but has never tried six furlongs on the surface. Manchild, who is 3 for 5 sprinting on turf, deserves longshot consideration hailing from the hot Carlos Martin barn.