05/17/2011 3:00PM

Belmont Park: Grand Rapport fit for comeback, but will he get to run on turf?


ELMONT, N.Y. – Although Thursday’s Three Coins Up overnight stakes is scheduled for 1 1/4 miles on the inner turf at Belmont Park, horseplayers will first have to handicap the weather, as a high probability of rain persisting into midweek could force the $60,000 race to the main track with a distance change to 1 1/8 miles.

Seven older males entered for turf, including Grassy and Bold Hawk, the one-three finishers in the Grade 2 Red Smith last fall; and Grand Rapport, who would be making his first start since getting up to win the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park last September.

A minor soft-tissue injury that flared up after the Kent ended Grand Rapport’s season, but the stretch-running gelding will not be a short horse if he gets to run, judging from a purposeful series of workouts at the Fair Hill Training Center, the home base for Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.

“He’s training phenomenal – he’s really quite fit,” said Gary Contessa, referring to a couple of stout mile works by Grand Rapport sandwiched around a bullet five-eighths in late April. “His breezes and stronger works need to be on turf or the Tapeta surface. I drove back and forth all winter just to train Grand Rapport there, and the more I go down there, the more I’d like to convince my owners that’s the place to train.

“I don’t mind yielding or soft turf but he’s definitely not running on dirt,” added Contessa.

The Christophe Clement-trained Grassy wouldn’t mind rain-softened going either, since he won the Red Smith over soft turf, five weeks after running a solid third in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on yielding ground.

Bold Hawk, third in the Red Smith in his second start back from a three-year layoff, would be making his 7-year-old debut for Jimmy Toner, who saddled three grass winners here last week.

Things change dramatically if the race switches to dirt, in which case Rick Dutrow has the uncoupled duo of I Want Revenge and Arson Squad.

“We plan on running I Want Revenge, but I’m not sure if we would run Arson Squad or not,” said Dutrow.

I Want Revenge, who would seemingly be in control of the pace while making his first non-graded stakes start since a maiden win in 2008, may rate the benefit of the doubt after misfiring in the Godolphin Mile on the Tapeta track in Dubai second time out this year.

“I would have to say he did not like that track,” said Dutrow