06/30/2010 11:00PM

Belmont roundup



Jimmy Toner

Toner, who saddled his first winner at Aqueduct a half-century ago, turns the big 7-0 next week, and the Philadelphia native still has a few tricks up his sleeve, judging from a 6-2-1 record from 14 starters at the current meet.

Zifzaf ($37.60) won a first-level turf allowance off a 10-month layoff to get things rolling in early May and returned last Friday, June 25, to take his second-level condition.

Mesa Fresca ($27.60) switched to turf for a maiden win off a 69-day layoff and was followed soon after by two more maiden winners on dirt -- Doo Woppa Do ($17.60) and Stormandaprayer ($4), who blitzed a 44-and-change half-mile wiring maiden sprinters first time out since last November.

La Cloche ($23) returned from a 74-day layoff June 25 for her second start as a 3-year-old and evoked memories of her dam, Memories of Silver, to graduate stylishly from the maiden ranks while equipped with blinkers for the first time. To recall, Toner developed Memories of Silver to win Grade 1 turf stakes in New York (Diana), Kentucky (Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup), and Illinois (Beverly D).

Carl Domino

The month of June was a sweet one for the 66-year-old conditioner, who won five races with nine starters.

Missinglisalewis ($7.90) and Slevin ($6.90) got the money last week, each making their second start back from a layoff.

The week prior, No Rhyme Or Reason ($3.50) and Chaysen' Alex ($17.20) held their form to win conditioned claimers. No Rhyme Or Reason had been second in three straight starts before finally getting through second-level allowance ranks. Chaysen' Alex had won a second-level allowance ($8.40) on dirt in May and won right back on grass at the third level.


Another week of dry weather meant turf races outnumbered dirt races once again, 26-21.

Although the gap has narrowed, favorites on dirt (84 for 203, 41 percent) are still easily outperforming favorites on turf (62 for 207, 30 percent), primarily because there are just so many cut-and-dried standouts in short fields on the main track.

Big Sandy carried speed fairly well to start the week: Four of five winners led at the pace call on Wednesday, June 23, and the lone exception was one length from the lead at that point.

There were no apparent trends on the turf courses, which have been baked through dry weather and constant use. When the pace is slow, front-runners hang on; when the pace is fast, closers come on.


Saturday's 125th running of the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap was shaping up as an intriguing matchup between Regal Ransom and I Want Revenge, neither of whom has run this year.

The Suburban, run once at 12 furlongs, once at 1 3/16 miles, and 122 times at 10 furlongs, has been shortened to 1 1/8 miles this year, yet another depressing acknowledgment that less is more for the modern-day Thoroughbred.

Indeed, I Want Revenge was scratched on the morning of the 2009 Kentucky Derby, was the subject of suits and countersuits in the legal arena, and was slated to make his first start since taking the Gotham and Wood Memorial well over a year ago. I Want Revenge's new trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., won the 2008 Suburban with 40-1 upstart Frost Giant, who gave the meet's leading percentage trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, his biggest victory as a jockey.

Regal Ransom, meanwhile, hasn't been out since setting the pace in the Breeders' Cup Classic nearly eight months ago. He won the Super Derby with a 110 Beyer Figure off a 140-day absence, however, and Godolphin Stable won last week's Don LeVine Memorial with Desert Party, who returned to the U.S. off a three-month absence and produced a career-best performance.

The July 4 feature is the 63rd running of the Prioress, one of the precious few Grade 1 opportunities for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs.

Franny Freud, the hard-knocking New York-bred who won the Grade 2 Beaumont at Keeneland before humbling statebreds on dirt and turf earlier at this meet, is expected to tangle with Acorn winner Champagne d'Oro. Also likely were Funny Feeling, who has won her last two starts; Liam's Dream, who has won four of five starts, including the Grade 3 Cicada; and Rapport, a blowout winner of maiden and first-level allowance sprints at Hollywood Park for Bob Baffert. The pace complexion of the Prioress would heat up considerably if Hot Dixie Chick and/or Stormandaprayer were entered.

The six-day week concludes Monday with the 54th running of the $150,000 Bed o' Roses, formerly a Grade 2 at Aqueduct but downgraded this year to a Grade 3 sprint for fillies and mares. Expected starters are Devil by Design, Qualia, and Rightly So. Other possibilities by Tuesday night were Double Espresso, Dr. Zic, and Starship Angel.


The Saratoga giveaways were announced earlier this week, so make your plans now to line up for the four "must-have" items:

Thursday, July 29: White, short-sleeve "Midsummer St. Patrick's Day" T-shirt, with the Saratoga Race Course logo in green on the front and a three-leaf clover on the back. Sounds like just the thing, huh?

Sunday, Aug. 8: Brown "Rachel Alexandra" baseball cap.

Sunday, Aug. 22: Black umbrella with red Saratoga logo.

Sunday, Sept. 5: Long-sleeved gray T-shirt with red and black Saratoga logo.


Highest Regards

Trainer: Todd Pletcher

Last race: June 24, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 3 1/4

Purchased for $135,000 as a weanling, this grandson of Danzig was bet to odds-on for his juvenile debut and wired the field after setting a sharp pace.

La Cloche

Trainer: Jimmy Toner

Last race: June 27, 4th

Finish: 1st by 2 1/2

This Ghostzapper filly out of the multiple graded turf stakes winner Memories of Silver added blinkers for her return to the grass, and the result was a vastly improved performance to beat maidens decisively.


Trainer: Tom Albertrani

Last race: June 23, 2nd

Finish: 1st by 2 3/4

Purchased as a 2-year-old for $190,000, this Forest Danger colt returned from a 54-day layoff to wire maiden sprinters with something left, earning a Beyer Figure of 89.

Wise Stop

Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez

Last race: June 25, 9th

Finish: 1st by 7 3/4

This 3-year-old gelding widened his lead at every call to graduate over $25,000 maiden sprinters in an improved effort. He was claimed by a hot trainer who is having a remarkable spring-summer meet.