05/26/2009 12:00AM

Bribon exits Met Mile strong

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Bribon, with Alan Garcia up, wins the Met Mile over Smooth Air.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Robert Ribaudo plans to give Bribon, winner of the Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap, a summer vacation - that is, if the 6-year-old gelding will allow it.

Despite running a hard race in defeating Smooth Air by a half-length in Monday's Grade 1, $600,000 Met Mile at Belmont Park, Bribon acted Tuesday morning as if he were ready to do it all over again - and soon.

Ribaudo said when he received a congratulatory call Tuesday morning from Tony Micallef, the agent for Bribon's jockey, Alan Garcia, he joked with Micallef that Bribon "came out of the race so good I'm looking for a race for him next week.

"In reality, that's the way he came back," Ribaudo added. "It's hard to believe. It was a hard race, he made a big move, he got beat up pretty good, and he dug in. You'd never know it looking at his feed tub. He ate up right away, and this morning he's full of himself."

But with no significant one-turn race at which to point Bribon to this summer, Ribaudo believes he will just sit chilly with the 6-year-old gelded son of Mark of Esteem for the time being. Looking ahead, however, Ribaudo said his two main options for Bribon's next stakes are the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga, a seven-furlong dirt race on Sept. 5, or the $1 million Woodbine Mile on turf on Sept. 20. Though Bribon is winless in three tries on the turf in this country, he did win twice on grass in Europe.

"He is a grass horse by nature," Ribaudo said. "I don't believe his success is strictly a transition from grass. The gelding [of Bribon] and the settling down and finding the right distance are just as important as the surface switch."

Ribaudo did say that Bribon is not Breeders' Cup-nominated and that he would not be supplemented to that event. Ribaudo noted that as a gelding, Bribon is only worth what he can make on the track for owner Marc Keller.

"He doesn't have much resale value," Ribaudo said. "Purses are what's going to count between now and whenever this ride comes to an end."

Smooth Air transferred

Unfortunately for 71-year-old trainer Bennie Stutts, his ride with Smooth Air came to an end on Tuesday when owner Brian Burns transferred the horse to New York-based trainer Chad Brown.

Burns said he plans to campaign the horse in the Northeast this summer and didn't feel shipping back to Calder, where Stutts is based, was wise. Brown, in whose barn Smooth Air was stabled when he arrived in New York, is a former assistant to Bobby Frankel.

"It wasn't an easy decision, because Bennie's done such a phenomenal job with the horse," Burns said Tuesday afternoon. "I had to think about all the travel with the horse. It would be a little hard on Ben to keep traveling. I talked it over with the family and we decided it was silly to fly him back to Florida and then ship up to Monmouth or Saratoga."

Burns said two races he is considering for Smooth Air are the Salvator Mile at Monmouth on July 4 and the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 8.

Stutts admitted that Smooth Air belongs in New York, but was leery to speak any further about losing the horse.

"The horse belongs up here, he really does," Stutts said. "He doesn't belong in south Florida; there are no races for him. But I don't really want to talk about this anymore."

Stutts achieved great success with Smooth Air, guiding him to 6 wins, 4 seconds and 3 thirds from 15 starts, and amassing purse earnings of $1,052,200. Under Stutts, Smooth Air won the Hutcheson, Ohio Derby and Gulfstream Park Handicap - all Grade 2 events - and also finished second to Big Brown in the 2008 Florida Derby. In his only two off-the-board finishes, Smooth Air finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby and seventh in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

Albertrani sizzling in stakes

When Criticism won last Saturday's Sheepshead Bay, it was the 12th stakes win of the year for trainer Tom Albertrani. He will seek lucky 13 this Saturday when he sends out Gozzip Girl against six rivals in the Grade 2, $150,000 Sands Point Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Albertrani won last year's Sands Point with Raw Silk.

Gozzip Girl, a daughter of Dynaformer, has gone 3 for 4 on the turf, including victories in the Coconut Grove and Grade 3 Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream. Most recently, she finished second, beaten a neck, in the Grade 1 Ashland, run over Keeneland's Polytrack.

"That was kind of a last-minute decision to go there," Albertrani said. "It wasn't on our agenda until three days before that Saturday. "[Myron] Miller, the owner, actually made a decision that he wanted to try her; he took a chance in there and it worked out pretty well."

Gozzip Girl's only loss on turf came to Fast Tigress in a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park in February. Since that win, Fast Tigress has lost three consecutive turf stakes, including a pair to Gozzip Girl. Fast Tigress is entered back in the Sands Point.

Completing the field are Magical Affair, who is 2 for 3 on turf, Bluegrass Princess, Hopeful Image, War Shower, and Sapphire Sky.

Meanwhile, Albertrani said that Criticism would be considered for the Grade 2, $250,000 New York Stakes at 1 1/4 miles here on June 20 with a long-term goal either the Diana at Saratoga on Aug. 1 or the Beverly D. at Arlington the following week. Those plans could depend on what Sheikh Mohammed - Criticism's owner - does with Cocoa Beach, who could be aimed at the Diana.

Albertrani has other stakes in mind for some of his other horses. Barrier Reef and Ea are both under consideration for the Grade 2 Brooklyn on June 5 and/or the Grade 1 Suburban on July 4.

Rail service returns Thursday

Belmont Park fans residing in Manhattan can once again take the train to the track beginning Thursday, as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has restored the "Belmont Special.'' Trains leave Penn Station at 11:56 a.m. and 1:15 p.m for the approximately 40-minute ride to Belmont. Return trains leave 30 minutes after the last race.

As part of wide-sweeping budget cuts introduced last month, the MTA had terminated train service to Belmont Park with the exception of this Saturday and Belmont Stakes Day (June 6). But with legislators in Albany approving a financial bailout package for the MTA and with the help of senate majority leader Malcolm Smith, state sen. Craig Johnson, state assemblyman Thomas Alfano and other Nassau and Hempstead officials, train service was restored.

According to NYRA officials, average weekday ridership on the Belmont Special is 87 while average weekend ridership is 215. Those figures do no not factor in Belmont Stakes Day. It was unclear what impact the lack of the train had on handle for first third of the meet.

Secretariat returns this weekend

The statue of Secretariat that was damaged in a paddock accident on May 20 is scheduled to return to the Belmont paddock this weekend, according to NYRA officials.

A mahogany wooden base will be installed on which the bronze statue will sit. This will be in place through the Belmont summer meet. A new concrete base with the full inscription of Secretariat's accomplishments is expected to be completed and installed in time for the fall meet, which begins on Sept. 11.

That base was broken when the horse City on Line got loose on his way to the track and raced through the paddock, crashing into the statue. City on Line was euthanized after breaking a femur.

The statue of Secretariat toppled over but remained intact with a few nicks, but the engraved concrete pedestal was cracked into three pieces.

The statue is half-sized replica of the original, which is located in the courtyard of the National Museum or Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.