09/17/2001 11:00PM

Belmont's back, but stakes are lost


ELMONT, N.Y. - After waiting a week for New York to regroup from the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, racing resumes Wednesday at Belmont Park with a nine-race card. First post is 1 p.m.

Belmont, 23 miles east of the twin towers that were destroyed by hijacked jetliners on Sept. 11, has not conducted racing since Sept. 9. The New York Racing Association has run only three programs since Saratoga ended on Sept. 3. Wednesday's card features a pick six carryover of $56,238.

Following the terrorist attacks, Belmont canceled its Wednesday through Friday programs. Track officials had planned to reopen on Saturday but abruptly canceled the weekend cards late Friday morning.

There are no plans to make up any of the five lost days, according to Terry Meyocks, president and chief operating officer of NYRA. NYRA lost millions of dollars in handle, although Meyocks declined to give an estimate and would say only that lost revenue to NYRA was "significant.''

"Belmont fall is probably the second most productive meet we have with regard to revenue,'' Meyocks said.

While horsemen did not quarrel with the decision to cancel last weekend's racing, many were upset with the decision to cancel, rather than postpone, four of the five graded stakes - including three Grade 1's - slated for last Saturday and Sunday. The Grade 2 Jerome, which had been scheduled for last Saturday, will instead be run this Saturday.

Some horsemen were displeased with the cancellation of the Grade 1 Ruffian, a prep for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff, one of eight races on the World Thoroughbred Championships card at Belmont on Oct. 27. NYRA management feared that by rescheduling the Ruffian for this Saturday, it would adversely affect the Grade 1 Beldame, to be run Oct. 6. However, the majority of the 11 horses that entered the Ruffian were not going to run in the Beldame.

Some horsemen felt the Ruffian could have been rescheduled for Wednesday. Others said that NYRA should have made up the weekend cards on Monday and Tuesday.

"I thought the best solution would have been to run [Monday and Tuesday],'' said Rick Violette, trainer of Ruffian entrant March Magic. "It would have kept the integrity of the stakes program.''

Violette now is torn between shipping March Magic to Kentucky for Saturday's $200,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup or waiting for the Beldame.

"She's ready to run,'' Violette said. "To sit around and do nothing for another three weeks is not ideal.''

Scott Schwartz, the trainer of Critical Eye, said that by rescheduling the Ruffian for Wednesday, it would have given horses 17 days to run back in the Beldame, a reasonable gap between races. "Seventeen days is not seven days,'' Schwartz said.

Schwartz, who nominated Critical Eye for the Turfway race, said he would probably wait for the Beldame.

Spain, last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff winner, was booked on a Tuesday flight to Kentucky, where she will run in the Turfway Breeders' Cup. Printemps, who hasn't raced since May 6, was also scheduled to be on that plane, but instead is heading back to California.

Three of the horses entered in the Ruffian were entered in a classified allowance race on Wednesday's card. The most notable is Secret Status, last year's Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose winner, who has already won two allowance races this year. While trainer Neil Howard is grateful for the opportunity to run Secret Status Wednesday, he would have preferred to run her in a Grade 1 stakes. Not only would it help her earn Breeders' Cup points, it would help determine whether she belonged in the Distaff in the first place.

"We needed the Ruffian, to put it plain and simple,'' Howard said.

Pentatonic, a multiple stakes winner, and Rochelle's Terms are also entered in Wednesday's 1 1/16-mile race.

Wednesday's card also features a preliminary allowance race for juvenile colts and one of juvenile fillies. Two-year-olds lost out on Grade 1 opportunities in Sunday's Futurity and Matron.

Heavyweight Champ and The Call of Duty, both of whom were entered in the Futurity, were entered in a seven-furlong allowance Wednesday. Heavyweight Champ is coming out of a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and picks up the services of Jerry Bailey.