05/23/2010 11:00PM

Belmont roundup

Email

WHO'S HOT

Alan Goldberg

With two wins at the meet, his name didn't appear in the standings to start the week. Yet, no trainer in the Northeast is hotter than this man, who had the Midas Touch with nine winners in May, including seven exacta finishers from eight starters from May 13-17.

The common threads with most of them were threefold: turf, layoffs, and extraordinary value.

The streak began here when Humble Song ($39.60), first-time turf off a three-month layoff, wired a turf sprint under Jorge Duarte Jr. in the May 13 nightcap. Goldberg gathered momentum the next day at Belmont, when Out Post ($15.40) won the turf-sprint opener in his first start since Nov. 6, and Talike Me ran a clear second at 9-1 in her first start since Nov. 12, recording a new Beyer Speed Figure top of 86.

The key for many bettors on Preakness Day at Old Hilltop revolved around the Goldberg-trained comebacker Virsito ($14), who took a second-level turf allowance first out since Nov. 7, and Strike a Deal ($30.20), who surpassed the $1omillion earnings mark after upsetting the Grade 2 Dixie first out since an off-the-board finish in the United Nations last July 4.

The trainer's race

As the week began, there was a five-way tie atop the standings among Linda Rice, David Jacobson, Rudy Rodriguez, Seth Benzel, and John Terranova, all of whom had four wins.

Stalking from close range were no fewer than eight trainers with three wins, headed by Hall of Fame octogenarian Allen Jerkens, who was off to a 3-0-1 start from 5 runners and was the top percentage trainer.

Favorites on dirt

Through May 16, students of form had zeroed in on the right horse 42 percent of the time (27 for 65) on Big Sandy.

WHO'S NOT QUITE SO HOT

Favorites on turf

Because of the usual circumstances (larger fields, more layoff horses, trips, et cetera), the post-time choice had clicked at only 29 percent (17 for 58) on the turf courses.

Moral: If you're wondering where to spread in the multirace exotics, it's in the dirt races, yo.

TRACK TRENDS

Coming off a bye week for the pullout section because of the Preakness, let's get you caught up on the last fortnight of notable trends:

On the main track, early speed was exceptionally potent on the first Sunday of the session (May 2), but since then, front-running winners have become something of a rarity. During the week of May 5-9, just five of 25 races (20 percent) were won wire to wire. Stretch-runners fared exceptionally well on the weekend of May 8-9.

Horses racing in outside paths appeared to have much the best of it on Wednesday, May 12, and Thursday, May 13, and closers ran amok to close things out Preakness weekend. In fact, the Plod Boys at Racing Flow had the Sunday, May 16, card rated at 263, making it the most closer-favoring day on this circuit since March 1, 2009.

On the turf courses, here's what will generally get you by:

On the Widener, look for the strongest finishers, and on the inner - especially at six furlongs - look for the best horse with tactical speed.

During the week of May 5-9, 7 of 10 inner-course sprints went to horses who led/dueled early. Of 11 races on the Widener, no one went wire to wire, and nine winners were fourth or further back early.

During the week of May 12-16, 3 of 4 inner-course sprints went to horses who either led or were within a length of the lead after the opening quarter-mile. Of the dozen races on the Widener, seven were won by horses rallying from the rear half of the field.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

The Beyer par for Saturday's 52nd running of the Sheepshead Bay is 100,give or take a point or two. Fillies and mares trained by Christophe Clement (3), Todd Pletcher (3), and Tom Albertrani (2) have captured eight of the last 10 renewals.

Sunday's $75,000 stakes doubleheader is the New York Stallion for 3-year-olds, scheduled for seven furlongs on the Widener turf. The Spectacular Bid division is for colts and geldings, the Cupecoy's Joy division is for fillies.

Next Saturday's headliner is the 60th running of the Vagrancy Breeders' Cup, a Grade 2, $150,000 sprint for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Next Sunday, New York-breds are in the spotlight once again, in the Kingston and Mount Vernon, a pair of $100,000 stakes scheduled for the grass.

And of course, the traditional Memorial Day feature will be the 118th running of the Metropolitan Handicap, a Grade 1, $500,000 mile out of the chute, in which Quality Road is expected to be a clear choice.

The Met Mile supporting card will include the Sands Point, a $150,000 Grade 2 for 3-year-old fillies, scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf.

THE FIDDLING-WHILE-ROME-BURNS AWARD OF THE WEEK

It's a tie!

Amid all the hysteria about whether racing will actually continue to exist on this circuit after Belmont Stakes Day, visitors to the New York Racing Association website in midweek were apprised of these two "top stories:"

1. Garden City & Floral Park Welcome Return of Annual Belmont Festival.

and . . .

2. Centerplate Introduces New Menu Concepts For 2010 Belmont Stakes.

You may be interested to know the menu will include:

Sliced ribeye with heirloom tomato and red onion salad.

Frankies meatballs with pine nuts and raisins.

House-made cavatelli with Faiccos hot sausage and browned sage butter.

Buttermilk fried chicken with cole slaw, remoulade and buttermilk biscuit.

Hey, if that's the Last Supper, it sounds pretty good.

HORSES TO WATCH

Daveron

Trainer: Christophe Clement

Last race: May 14, 7th

Finish: 1st by 4

German import made her U.S. and 5-year-old debut for Team Valor Stable and crushed second-level allowance rivals in a where-has-Lasix-been-all-my-life performance. The Beyer Speed Figure came back a 95, and the 1 1/16-mile distance was far shorter than her best races overseas.

Friend or Foe

Trainer: John Kimmel

Last race: May 15, 1st

Finish: 1st by 1 3/4

This Chester and Mary Broman homebred beat open maiden special-weight sprinters when unveiled at Gulfstream Park on March 6. The 3-year-old colt returned to run down the pacesetter under mild urging in deep stretch of a first-level allowance for New York-breds, and his winning time of 1:08.99 translated to a 95 Beyer.

Groomedforvictory

Trainer: Barclay Tagg

Last race: May 16, 9th

Finish: 2nd by 3/4

He closed 2009 with three straight victories that included an overnight stakes. After failing to fire in his return from a five-month layoff at Aqueduct, he rebounded with a tough-trip placing in a high-end optional claiming route for statebreds, in which he was boxed in behind the leaders on the turn as a slow pace unfolded. Best distance is a mile.

White Chiffon

Trainer: Steve Asmussen

Last race: May 13, 1st

Finish: 3rd by neck

A seven-length maiden winner at Fair Grounds as a second-time starter, this 3-year-old filly by Candy Ride is a double-dead-rail special after running on the deeper inside footing at Aqueduct on April 9 and again in the May 13 opener.