Updated on 05/31/2013 2:01PM

Belmont Park: Wilkes finally unleashes Free as a Bird

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Barbara D. Livingston
Free as a Bird (left) just gets up to win an allowance race Feb. 8 at Gulfstream Park.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Free as a Bird takes the next step up while Somali Lemonade takes a logical step back Sunday in a $79,000, second-level allowance race on turf that, despite its placement as the first race on the card, serves as the feature at Belmont Park.

Free as a Bird, a daughter of Hard Spun trained by Ian Wilkes, has not raced since winning a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 8. Wilkes said he had a difficult time getting his filly into a race, noting that an overnight stakes at Belmont earlier this meet failed to fill.

After going winless in five dirt starts, Free as a Bird has won 2 of 3 starts on turf, beginning with a maiden win here last September. She ended her 3-year-old season with a fourth-place finish at Churchill – a race in which she broke slowly – in November before her win at Gulfstream.

"On dirt, she’d do things easily and have a very, very short run," Wilkes said. "I tried the turf to see if it would extend her run. Obviously, it did."

Free as a Bird will be reunited Sunday with Edgar Prado, who was aboard for both of her wins on turf.

"Edgar knows the filly well and gave her a great trip last time and she was very game to win."

Somali Lemonade showed great promise at 2, winning the first two starts of her career including a maiden win here and the Grade 3 Jessamine Stakes at Keeneland. She has lost nine consecutive starts – all graded stakes – but was beaten just a head by Samitar in last fall’s Grade 1 Garden City here.

Somali Lemonade, who shows a solid work tab for her return, will be ridden by John Velazquez and break from post 7.

"In one way she had a nice year and in another way she didn’t," trainer Michael Matz said. "She didn’t win a darn race but she almost won a Grade 1. She’s filled out a lot, is working well and this looked like a good place to hopefully start the year off right."

Trophy Wife finished sixth in the Garden City and has twice finished second in this condition, first at Keeneland to end her 3-year-old season and, most recently, at Churchill to begin her 4-year-old campaign. In both races, she made the lead in midstretch.

"I think you got to wait on her a little bit longer," said trainer Shug McGaughey, who has Joel Rosario riding the filly. "She’s got one short run."

Cosmic Energy and Mariel N Kathy, third and fourth, respectively, in this condition over yielding turf on May 10, are back in here with the former looking like the main speed of the race. Roman Invader, coming off four consecutive second-place finishes and Poetic Kid, who has six seconds in 12 career starts, complete the field.