10/09/2012 2:19PM

Belmont Park: Za Approval, Queen'splatekitten square off on turf in Thursday feature

Tom Keyser
Za Approval, trained by Christophe Clement, has won 3 of his last 4 starts on firm ground.

Za Approval and Queen’splatekitten, who were scheduled to meet on the canceled Sept. 28 program, head a field of nine grass-meant runners in Thursday’s third-level allowance feature scheduled for one mile on the Widener turf.

After persistent rain last week, the condition of the course could be a key for Za Approval, who was off the board on good turf when unveiled last year. Since then, the Like Oak Plantation homebred has won three of four starts on firm ground for trainer Christophe Clement, with his only defeat during that stretch a placing to Corporate Jungle, who subsequently won the Grade 3 Appleton Stakes at Gulfstream Park and the Elkwood Stakes at Keeneland.

Queen’splatekitten’s biggest victory to date was the Marine Stakes on Woodbine’s synthetic surface as a 3-year-old last year. Although he has won just one of eight starts on turf, the majority of them were graded stakes, including in-the-money finishes in the Palm Beach, Saranac, Red Bank, and Oceanport.

Most recently, Queen’splatekitten was compromised by a slow pace when stablemate Dominus set leisurely fractions in wiring the Bernard Baruch Handicap. Queen’splatekitten finished fifth.

“He always shows up and runs hard,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who last week sent out six stakes winners while moving into second on the all-time earnings list.

Artest, Gathering Cloud, and Schoolyard Dreams weren’t in the original Sept. 28 edition, but add depth to the contention.

Artest gave trainer Michelle Nihei her first Saratoga stakes victory when he rallied from off the pace in the Quick Call at 5 1/2 furlongs. Artest is the lone 3-year-old in the lineup and will break from the outside post while stretching out from a third-place finish in the six-furlong Groovy Stakes.

“He does strike you in many ways as a two-turn horse when he’s training,” Nihei said. “He’s the kind of horse that never runs out of air.”

Other contenders include the Michael Trombetta-trained Bad Debt, in the money in 21 of 23 starts on grass; Grand Rapport, the 2010 Kent Stakes winner who goes first off a claim by leading trainer David Jacobson after a big win; Nine O Wonderful, a deep closer who won the meet opener upstate; and Self Control, who hasn’t been on turf in more than a year for Chad Brown.

Golden Gulch, Hillswick, Rush Now, and Sovereign Default entered for dirt only.