06/13/2013 3:25PM

Belmont Park: Infinite Magic back on turf for Hill Prince Stakes


ELMONT, N.Y. – After a failed experiment on dirt in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, Infinite Magic will return to turf in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont Park.

In the absence of 3-year-old male-turf-division leader Rydilluc, a dozen were entered in the Hill Prince, restricted to 3-year-olds and scheduled for one mile on the Widener turf.

Infinite Magic will be making his first start for trainer Rick Mettee, who last month took over as the private trainer for Team Valor International.

Infinite Magic, a son of More than Ready, won a second-level allowance race on turf at Keeneland in his North American debut in April. He was shipped to New York for the Peter Pan, where, in the name of trainer Robert Ribaudo, Infinite Magic ran last over a sloppy track.

“We took a shot, thinking he had trained well on the dirt, maybe he’d run good on it,” Mettee said.

Mettee said he tried to wheel Infinite Magic back on short rest in the Lamplighter Stakes on turf at Monmouth Park, but that race failed to fill. The Hill Prince became Plan B.

“We didn’t want to shorten him up to a one-mile race, but the timing is right,” Mettee said. “He’s ready to run.”

Infinite Magic rallied from 10 lengths back and just got up in his allowance win. There does appear to be some early speed in the Hill Prince, though Mettee’s concern is how well Infinite Magic’s turn of foot will play out on a soft turf course.

One of the probable speed horses in the Hill Prince is Joha, who won the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity over Keeneland’s synthetic surface last October.

Joha, 1 for 3 on turf, is making his first start since a ninth-place finish in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on dirt Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs. He also is making his first start for trainer Tom Albertrani.

“He acts good, he’s working good, [and] he seems like he’s fit,” Albertrani said. “He might not be 100 percent, but I think he’s working well enough where I think he’ll run well.”

Todd Pletcher will send out the uncoupled entry of Notacatbutallama and Red Rifle. Notacatbutallama is a two-time stakes winner on turf, including a win at Belmont. He also finished second in the Grade 3 Pilgrim over soft Belmont turf last fall.

“He’s pretty adaptable to just about anything,” Pletcher said. “I feel like he’s moved forward since his first start [off a layoff] in the Murphy,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully, we can get a decent trip from the outside post.”

Red Rifle, a son of Giant’s Causeway, has won on dirt and synthetic and trained well enough on turf for Pletcher to give this race a try.

“Based on the way he’s trained over it, we feel like he’ll handle it well,” he said.

Shining Copper, second in the $100,000 James W. Murphy at Pimlico last out; Chamois, a winner of two straight on turf; and Special Skills, third in the Pilgrim last fall, are other contenders in this deep field.