06/08/2005 11:00PM

Can anyone beat Afleet?


Indy Storm is not in the same league as Afleet Alex, but strange things happen in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. Indy Storm, an improving son of Belmont winner A.P. Indy, is bred for the distance and qualified to upset. His pattern - up in class after a career best - is akin to Belmont longshot winners Sarava, Lemon Drop Kid, and Colonial Affair.

At least two things must occur for Indy Storm to win - another career top, and regression from Afleet Alex. Both are likely. Indy Storm's recent improvement coincides with an exit from speed-friendly races at Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, and Keeneland. Further, trainer Nick Zito coaxed rapid improvement this spring from other 3-year-olds. When they get good, they get good in a hurry - Bellamy Road and Noble Causeway catapulted from Beyer Figures in the 70's to the 100's in just a few weeks this spring. Indy Storm fits the pattern.

Indy Storm earned an ordinary 88 Beyer last time, yet it marked another forward move. A late-developing colt, Indy Storm is still going up; perhaps the figure does not do justice. As for Zito, six of his last 12 Belmont starters have run one-two, and Indy Storm hits this year's Belmont as a sensible candidate to outrun his odds or win outright.

Afleet Alex ran his best race in the Preakness, winning clear at a generous $8.60 payoff. However, his subpar effort in the 1 1/4-mile Derby hints he is vulnerable at classic distances. While Afleet Alex's agility and turn of foot are fine attributes, they are not requisite for victory at 1 1/2 miles. Afleet Alex may win for the simple reason he is the best 3-year-old in the country. But his odds will be short.

Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo is a perfect fit for Belmont. His grinding, one-paced style is well-suited to the wide, sweeping turns. But is he getting better? On figures, he is staying about the same.

Reverberate enters with an improving pattern, a long-distance pedigree, and a proven affinity for this track - two wins, and a career-best runner-up effort two weeks ago in the Peter Pan. The wagering dilemma is whether 6-1 is a fair price. It seems low.

* Indy Storm

* Afleet Alex

* Giacomo

* Reveberate