05/24/2011 2:13PM

Belmont Park: Strike It Rich heads Florida connection

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Strike It Rich, with Garrett Gomez riding, wins the Grade 3 Boiling Springs.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Everyone in Thursday’s $60,000 Key to the Bridge overnight stakes at Belmont Park raced at Calder, Gulfstream Park, and/or Tampa Bay Downs during the winter and early spring.

Strike It Rich, the only graded stakes winner among the seven turf-meant fillies and mares, is the 5-2 morning-line choice. She was unable, however, to hold clear early leads in both Florida starts for Christophe Clement, and appears somewhat vulnerable drawn in between Becky’s Exchange and Ainamaa, who also have early speed.

Bet On the Blue ran the best race of her career in the South Beach Stakes on yielding turf first time out this season for Allen Jerkens. Any cut in the ground could work in her favor, as she comes off an even effort to get by Ainamaa for third in the Beaugay Stakes earlier this month.

Ainamaa, a 7-year-old mare trained by Greg Griffith, tops the competitive lineup in both wins and purse earnings.

Becky’s Exchange, claimed for $40,000 four weeks after setting the pace in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf, led to deep stretch in an optional claimer on the Widener course first out for Bobby Barbara.

Box Office Queen and Prize Catch are stretch runners who could be in line for a favorable setup.

Box Office Queen returned from a 16-month absence to win back-to-back allowance races at Tampa Bay in her first two starts for the husband-and-wife training team of Arnaud and Leigh Delacour, before finishing off the board in the Grade 3 Hillsborough – a tough race in which four-time graded stakes winner Keertana could only manage third.

“She’s a very consistent filly,” said Arnaud Delacour. “She may have been a little bit overmatched last time, but fits well in this race numbers-wise.”

Prize Catch spots experience after running out of ground in a classy second-level allowance at Gulfstream won by Gitchee Goomie, who was then beaten a neck in the Beaugay. Finishing behind Prize Catch that day were Embur’s Song, subsequently a two-time Grade 3 stakes winner, and La Cloche, who then beat Becky’s Exchange.

“She may be jumping up in category, but the last race was good, so it’s a calculated risk,” said trainer Angel Penna Jr. “She may be more of a mile-and-an-eighth, mile-and-a-quarter type filly, but she’s ready to run.”

Mystic Miracle, a late-rallying fourth in the South Beach for Mark Hennig, also figures to be coming late.

Patience Drive is entered for dirt only.