09/13/2011 1:26PM

Belmont Park: Rail Trip looks to bounce back in Pot O' Luck Stakes

Barbara D. Livingston
Rail Trip will start from the rail in Thursday’s $60,000 Pot O’ Luck Stakes at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Going into last month’s Whitney Invitational Handicap at Saratoga, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. thought Rail Trip was ready to join the ranks of the elite in the handicap division. After watching Rail Trip finish a well-beaten seventh to Tizway, Dutrow didn’t know what to think.

So, instead of pressing on in graded stakes company, Dutrow has decided to take a step back with Rail Trip, entering him in Thursday’s $60,000 Pot O’ Luck Stakes, which serves as the featured event on Belmont Park’s nine-race card.

Rail Trip is the only Grade 1 winner in the field of six entered to contest 1 1/16 miles over the main track. The field includes graded stakes winners Colizeo, Pleasant Prince, and Afleet Again, though the latter also is entered in Saturday’s $250,000 PTHA President’s Cup at Parx racing. Litigation Risk also is entered.

The Pot O’ Luck is similar to the Easy Goer, a race run June 5 in which Rail Trip – in his first start off a seven-month layoff – ran a very good second to Friend Or Foe, getting beat a head in a fast time of 1:40.13.

That, Dutrow thought, would set Rail Trip up for a big effort in the Whitney. It was not to be as Rail Trip was beaten 13 1/2 lengths.

“I wish I knew,” Dutrow said when asked what happened in the Whitney. “I’m hoping it was all about the track; that he didn’t like the surface. He trained very, very good going into that race, but he never showed up. There’s got to be a reason for it, but I don’t know what it is.”

Rail Trip, the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup winner, is winless in three starts since being moved to Dutrow by owners Mace and Samantha Siegel last summer. Rail Trip developed foot problems last summer in Saratoga and, after seemingly overcoming those, finished fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Dutrow is hoping the Pot O’ Luck can be a stepping-stone to something bigger for Rail Trip.

“We want to give him a chance to win a race, this is still a tough spot, tough post, but the way he’s been training, we think he can handle this,” Dutrow said.

Colizeo, a 4-year-old son of Distorted Humor, won the Star of Cozzene Stakes, a race similar to this, last fall at Belmont. Since then, he has run five times with a win in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa and a neck loss to Apart in the William Donald Schaefer at Pimlico on Preakness Day. He comes off a fifth-place finish in the Grade 2 Suburban, a race in which he got used up in a speed duel.

“The horse came out of that race well, good energy level, he’s had a couple of nice breezes coming into this,” said Jonathan Thomas, the New York-based assistant for Todd Pletcher. “We’re anticipating him being in fine form.”

The Pletcher stable also sends out Modern Cowboy, who won the West Virginia Governors Handicap at Mountaineer on Aug. 6. He is 4 for 5 at the 1 1/16-mile distance, though he has never raced at Belmont, where that distance is run around one turn.