06/10/2005 12:00AM

This crown jewel is over jumps


ELMONT, N.Y. - Steeplechase racing in New York hits its peak during the Saratoga meet, but fans will get a taste of it this Sunday when the Grade 2 Meadow Brook is run at Belmont Park.

The 2 1/2-mile Meadow Brook, run over 10 jumps, drew a maximum field of 14, plus two also-eligibles, and will be run as the third race. The $75,000 Meadow Brook is the third leg of the steeplechase triple crown for novice jumpers.

Sunday's well-matched field includes the winners of the first two legs of the triple crown, Toughkenamon and Mixed Up.

Mixed Up won the second leg, the National Hunt Cup at the Radnor course in Pennsylvania on May 21, by two lengths and defeated 11 rivals. Mixed Up skipped the first race in the series, the Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey in Middleburg, Va., which was won by Toughkenamon.

Toughkenamon powered away to a nine-length win in the Temple Gwathmey, but ran dismally in the National Hunt Cup and was beaten 22 lengths. Because of that effort, Toughkenamon will not race with blinkers in the Meadow Brook.

"He was way too keen with the blinkers last time," said Kathy McKenna, Toughkenamon's trainer.

McKenna, who won the Meadow Brook two years ago with Trebizond, purchased Toughkenamon for Armata Stable last fall. At the time of the purchase, the gelding was racing and running well in flat races. Less than two months after the purchase, Toughkenamon won his jumping debut.

Robert Massey rides Toughkenamon.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard said that Mixed Up, a minor stakes winner on the flat, was well suited to the tight turns at Radnor, where he won the National Hunt Cup. Having said that, Sheppard is concerned about Mixed Up's ability to maneuver Belmont's sweeping turns.

"He's a compact horse and pretty handy, and the course at Radnor suited him," said Sheppard, who is the president of the National Steeplechase Association. "Belmont suits long-striding horses. Whether that makes a difference or not, I don't know - but it's my one fear."

Danielle Hodsdon has the mount.

Numitas is an intriguing runner. Before being imported from Europe, Numitas won several jump races by lengthy margins in England. He prepped for the Meadow Brook by finishing second in a flat race in Atlantic City in April.

Erin Go Bragh, like Numitas trained by Paul Fout, is eligible to pick up a piece of the purse.