06/15/2010 12:00AM

Desert Key returning to races


ELMONT, N.Y. - Since it looks like a shutdown of New York's dysfunctional state government will not take place - a budget extension bill was expected to be passed Monday - it should be business as usual at Belmont Park come Wednesday afternoon.

That's good news for the connections of Desert Key, who seem to have found the ideal spot in which to bring back their sometimes-brilliant, sometimes-brittle 5-year-old to the races. Desert Key, away from the races for 53 weeks, faces four opponents in race going six furlongs.

In 2008, Desert Key was emerging as one of the better 3-year-old sprinters in training. Following a sharp five-length victory in a first-level allowance race on Belmont Stakes Day, Desert Key was beaten a head by Kodiak Kowboy in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga. Four weeks later, he finished second to Visionaire in the Grade 1 King's Bishop.

Desert Key finished his 3-year-old campaign with a second-place finish in the $250,000 Gallant Bob Stakes at Philadelphia Park before being sent to the sidelines. In 2009, he made only two starts before a hind-end issue forced him to the bench again following a last-place finish in the True North on Belmont Stakes Day 2009, according to trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Desert Key returned to training in the fall and showed a steady work pattern from Nov. 18 through Jan. 10. He was entered in a second-level allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 13 but was scratched the morning of the race with a fractured elbow, Jerkens said. The unusual injury required only time, and Desert Key resumed breezing on May 8. He has breezed five times leading up to this.

"If he's anything like he was when he was a 3-year-old, he should win," Jimmy Jerkens said. "But it's been a long time. It's hard to gauge them. His works have been okay."

Javier Castellano, coming off a four-win afternoon Sunday, has the call from post 2.

If Desert Key shows the same early speed he had at 3, he will be awfully tough to catch in this spot. Endless Circle, won a New York-bred allowance by four lengths on May 16, his first start off the claim for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who is 8 for 22 at this meet.

Saint Daimon, a 7-year-old gelding trained by Steve Jerkens -- Jimmy's brother -- is entered for the optional claiming price of $50,000. Keechi Bullet, though seemingly overmatched on paper, is working strongly for his first start since Feb. 27. Love Abroad completes the field.