09/07/2012 1:24PM

Belmont: Street Game back where he runs best for Ashley Cole

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Tom Keyser
Street Game brings a 4-for-5 record on Belmont's turf into the Ashley Cole Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Street Game’s fifth-place finish in the West Point Stakes was one of the few blemishes on what was an otherwise terrific Saratoga meet for trainer Phil Serpe. Though Serpe, who went 7 for 31 at the Spa, may not have wanted to leave upstate New York, he is viewing the change of venue to Belmont Park as a positive for Street Game when he runs in Sunday’s $150,000 Ashley T. Cole Stakes.

Street Game is 4 for 5 at Belmont, the lone loss being a third-place finish behind Compliance Officer and Lubash in the Kingston Stakes here May 27. Compliance Office and Lubash will once again be Street Game’s major rivals in the Cole, one of three stakes on Sunday’s 10-race program.

Street Game was pressing the pace in the West Point and had the lead turning for home under Ramon Dominguez, but gave way in the stretch and faded to fifth, 2 3/4 lengths behind Lubash.

“It’s the one thing that totally stumped me at Saratoga is how that horse ran so poorly,” Serpe said.

Since the race, Street Game has come back with two exceptionally fast works over the Oklahoma training turf; working a half-mile in 45.90 seconds Aug. 27 and a half-mile in 46.83 on Monday.

“He worked sensational up there,” Serpe said.

Breaking from the rail Sunday under Dominguez, Street Game could wind up on the lead in the Cole. Abilio, the other speed, will likely have to be used from post 8 to get to the front. Last year, Street Game won the Grade 3 Hill Prince in gate-to-wire fashion.

“He likes to kind of lumber at his own pace whatever that pace may be,” Serpe said.

Compliance Officer won the Cole last year, but has dropped his last two starts, including the Grade 3 Poker here in July and last month’s West Point. Though the turf was labeled firm for the West Point, trainer Bruce Brown said a heavy shower right before the race made the ground less than firm.

“With that downpour that we had, the turf for that race was very yielding, and he was a little too close to what I think turned out to be a decent pace,” Brown said. “Lubash was sitting well back and really got the jump on us around the turn. No excuses. We were definitely not as good that day as he was.”

Compliance Officer, like Street Game, has done his best work over the Belmont turf, winning seven times here. Brown also believes the 1 1/8 miles will help Compliance Officer, who could be compromised by an apparent lack of pace.

“The fact there is no pace might be leveled off a little bit by the fact that it’s a mile and an eighth race, and this is a little farther than some of these horses might want,” Brown said. “We have to keep him in his game, and what he’s had his success with is sitting off the pace and making his big run.”

Lubash, a former front-runner, was successful coming off the pace in the West Point. He had significant traffic in the Kingston, when beaten three-quarters of a length by Compliance Officer in May.

“It’s a week quicker than I wanted to run him back, but he looks good, he’s trained well, and he likes Belmont,” trainer Christophe Clement said.

Minnie Punt, second in the West Point, Hangover Kid, Majestic Raffy, and Abilio complete the field.