05/03/2011 2:28PM

Belmont Park: Opus A tries to transfer good Aqueduct form to Belmont


ELMONT, N.Y. – Coming off a big effort out of the main track chute at Aqueduct in the same condition, Opus A figures to be favored against four other 4-year-old fillies in Thursday’s second-level optional $50,000 claiming feature at Belmont Park.

Opus A was sidelined for a year after winning the East View Stakes as a 2-year-old for Rick Violette Jr., and won her second-level New York-bred allowance condition by six lengths second time back. Following a third-place finish in the Rare Treat Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, she turned back to a mile on April 6 and ran a bang-up second against open company, leading to deep stretch and earning a lifetime best Beyer Figure of 90 in her first start with David Cohen aboard.

Opus A was displaced from her Aqueduct digs for several weeks due to the ongoing construction, but returned there a couple weeks ago, and turned in a bullet half-mile workout April 22.

“All systems are go,” said Violette. “I wouldn’t think Belmont poses a problem. She’s run well at Saratoga and on the inner and outer tracks at Aqueduct. She two-minute licked five or six days after that workout; we’re in good shape.”

Opus A breaks from the rail with Cohen in the one-mile race, inside Speightful Affair (Ramon Dominguez), Arena Elvira (Jose Lezcano), Freud’s Notebook (Jeffrey Sanchez), and Mined Over Matter (Eddie Castro).

Speightful Affair, Arena Elvira, and Freud’s Notebook have done their best running when positioned on or near the early lead, so although Opus A led at the pace call in two of her last three starts, she may have to revert to the kind of stretch-running tactics she used to win the East View as a 2-year-old.

“It’s a small field, so it’s a little bit of a riders’ race,” Violette said. “She has the ability to make up ground if she has to.”

Speightful Affair added blinkers for her final start as a 3-year-old, and responded with a big win over first-level allowance rivals in the slop. The Steve Asmussen-trained filly makes her first try in this condition, after pressing the pace in the Am Capable overnight stakes and the Ladies Handicap in March.

◗ The richest race on the card is race 2, a maiden special-weight sprint at five furlongs that marks the beginning of a revamped 2-year-old program where all maiden races at Belmont will be worth $60,000. Additionally, the Futurity and Matron, a pair of Grade 2, $150,000 stakes that were formerly run in the fall, but not run last year, are scheduled to return July 3.

“The purse structure is outstanding – it should inspire stiff competition and provide some good betting races for the fans,” said Wesley Ward, who won a pair of 2-year-old races at Chantilly, France on Monday.

Ward sends out the uncoupled duo of Gentlemans Code and Lord Chelsie here Thursday.

Finale, from the first crop of Champage and Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy, makes his debut for Todd Pletcher.