05/20/2009 11:00PM

Cough stalls This Ones for Phil

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Bob Coglianese
This Ones for Phil (left), placed first in the Swale at Gulfstream and the second-place horse in the Withers, may now be a candidate for the Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes card.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Monday's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap lost one potential starter when trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Thursday that This Ones for Phil would not make the race due to a cough.

"Our horse stopped coughing today," Dutrow said Thursday. "He's been coughing for nearly two weeks."

Dutrow said that if This Ones for Phil was not coughing on Friday, the horse would gallop with a possibility of breezing over the weekend. Provided there are no further setbacks, This One's for Phil could be a candidate for the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard, June 6.

This Ones for Phil began his 3-year-old season with a victory in the Sunshine Millions Dash at six furlongs. After finishing fifth in the Fountain of Youth, This Ones for Phil was placed first by the Gulfstream Park stewards in the Grade 2 Swale at seven furlongs after being interfered with by Big Drama. Most recently, This Ones for Phil finished second to Mr. Fantasy in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct despite a trough trip.

Benny the Bull getting closer

While Dutrow waits for This Ones for Phil to get healthy, his 2008 sprint champion Benny the Bull is getting closer to a return to the races. On Thursday, Benny the Bull worked five furlongs in 1:00.02 over Aqueduct's main track. It was his sixth breeze since he was put back in training.

"He's getting closer," Dutrow said. "He went good. He looks like he's ready if you look at him."

Benny the Bull, who went 4 for 4 last year before suffering an ankle injury, has not run since winning the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder last July 12. This year's Grade 2 Smile Sprint will be run at Calder on July 11 and is a goal for Benny the Bull.

Two Step Salsa aimed at Tom Fool

After winning the Godolphin Mile in Dubai in March, Two Step Salsa became a prime candidate for Monday's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. But upon returning to North America, Two Step Salsa developed a temperature that cost him some training time, and he wasn't even nominated to the prestigious race.

On Thursday, Two Step Salsa breezed four furlongs in 48.17 seconds over Belmont Park's main track, and his new target is the Grade 2, $200,000 Tom Fool at seven furlongs here on July 5. It was the second breeze for Two Step Salsa since arriving in New York in late April.

"He's probably two breezes away from being able to run in race like the Metropolitan," said Rick Mettee, who oversees Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing string in New York. "The Tom Fool is seven-eighths, so we have plenty of time to make it."

Mettee said that Gayego, who was second to Two Step Salsa in the Godolphin Mile, also contracted a fever in quarantine when returning from Dubai. His return is not imminent.

Any Limit vs. Game Face, round 4?

Who says there are no more rivalries in horse racing?

This winter, Any Limit and Game Face met in three graded stakes at Gulfstream Park with Game Face besting Any Limit twice. A fourth matchup could be in the offing in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Both Any Limit and Game Face were entered, though Game Face is also entered in Saturday's $250,000 My Juliet Stakes at Philadelphia Park.

Game Face, who comes out of a sixth-place finish as the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff on May 2, drew post 4 in the Vagrancy, while Any Limit, who finished fourth in the 2008 Vagrancy and third in the 2007 version, breaks from post 5 under Cornelio Velasquez.

Others entered include Are We Dreamin, Carolyn's Cat, and Porte Bonheur.

Serpe may shoot for Grade 1

I Lost My Choo, who won last Sunday's $111,000 Mt. Vernon Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares, may run next in the Grade 1 Just a Game here on the Belmont Stakes undercard, trainer Phil Serpe said.

"It's a big step," he said. "It's a Grade 1. We'll have to see how things go. That last race was a move-forward race for her, in my opinion. If she's training well, it's certainly something we're going to consider."

In the Mt. Vernon, I Lost My Choo demonstrated a strong closing kick, rallying from ninth position to win by nearly two lengths under Jose Lezcano. She ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.52 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 95.

I Lost My Choo, a daughter of Western Expression owned and bred by Flying Zee Stable, has won 7 of 12 starts including the Grade 3 Virginia Oaks last year and the Grade 2 Honey Fox this year. She won the Mt. Vernon after finishing seventh in the Jenny Wiley, run over a "good" Keeneland turf course.

Belmont card begins in morning

First post for this year's Belmont Stakes Day (June 6) card will be 11:35 a.m., 25 minutes earlier than in past years, the New York Racing Association announced Thursday.

There will still be 13 races, with post time for the finale scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Last year, actual post time for the nightcap was 7:55 p.m.

The Belmont Stakes is scheduled as race 11 with a 6:27 p.m. post. The Grade 1 Manhattan will be run immediately before the Belmont at 5:34. The other four stakes races will be carded as races 6 through 9, though the order has not yet been finalized.

There will be a daily double linking the Brooklyn, run the previous day, and the Belmont Stakes.

Jockeys Lopez, Castro given suspensions

Jockeys Paco Lopez and Eddie Castro were both suspended for seven days for careless riding in the fifth race on May 15. Both riders have appealed their suspensions and will be allowed to ride until a hearing is held.

In a departure from the norm, the riders were suspended despite the stewards taking no action in the race. Lopez was aboard Offhand Remark, who in the stretch came out under left-handed whipping, carrying Speed Dating and Castro out. The horse Sweet Madness clipped heels with Speed Dating.