05/31/2007 11:00PM

Digger in Belmont since Street Sense is out


ELMONT, N.Y. - Like most racing fans, Larry Roman was hugely disappointed when he learned that Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense would not be running in the Belmont Stakes.

As a horse owner, Roman feels compelled to do something about it. So, he plans on running his newly acquired 3-year-old Digger in next Saturday's $1 million Belmont against Preakness winner Curlin and Derby runner-up Hard Spun. Digger, purchased by Roman about five weeks ago for $60,000 from William Wise, is a Maryland-bred gelded son of Yonaguska who has won 2 of 8 starts.

Digger, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., was entered in Saturday's Spend a Buck Stakes at Monmouth Park, but Roman said the horse will be scratched out of that race.

In hopes of making Digger's participation in the Belmont more interesting, Roman planned to ask retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr. to ride him. Reached Friday afternoon by Daily Racing Form, Cordero said thanks, but no thanks.

"It's a beautiful thought, and I'd like to thank him, but you can't get ready to ride in the Belmont in five days or six days," said the 64-year-old Cordero, who serves as the agent for jockey John Velazquez. "A mile and a half? They'd need oxygen to revive me."

Roman, who runs a Manhattan-based plumbing company, made news earlier this year when he voided a sale of his New York-bred Lawrence the Roman and returned money to the buyers after the horse ran poorly in the Whirlaway Stakes. Lawrence the Roman was subsequently retired and Roman planned to pay breeders to send well-qualified mares to the colt.

Roman said that by electing not to run Street Sense, owner Jim Tafel and trainer Carl Nafzger "should be ashamed of themselves," and added "they don't care about the game."

"If Street Sense was going to race I wouldn't ruin a race like that by putting in a horse that looks like he's over his head," Roman said. "This horse is a decent horse, he's training real well."

While Digger has little chance to be there at the finish, Roman did say the horse will make his presence felt early on the race.

"We're going to be on the lead," Roman said. "If Hard Spun goes at us he's going to be going 44 [seconds] for the first four furlongs. He better take back and not move early like he did in the Preakness. It'll cost him the race. I have a lot of respect for Hard Spun, but I think it's a race we can control. Do I expect to win? No. Are we going to try? You bet your ass."

Undercard stakes taking shape

English Channel, Better Talk Now, and Sky Conqueror head the list of horses being pointed to the Grade 1, $400,000 Manhattan Handicap, one of five graded stakes on the Belmont undercard.

English Channel finished fourth in this race last year, beaten a half-length by Cacique. He came back to win the United Nations Handicap and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic before running third in the Breeders' Cup Turf. This year, he won an allowance race and finished 12th in the Dubai Duty Free.

Better Talk Now, the 2004 Breeders' Cup Turf winner, won the Grade 1 Man o' War over this course in the fall of 2005. The 8-year-old gelding is coming off a fourth-place finish behind Sky Conqueror in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill on May 5.

Others being pointed to the Manhattan are Cosmonaut, Grand Couturier, Interpatation, Kiss the Kid, Mustanfar, and Steppenwolfer.

The Grade 1, $250,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies features a rematch between Ashland one-two finishers Christmas Kid and Octave. While Christmas Kid skipped the Kentucky Oaks, Octave came back and ran second to Rags to Riches. Others pointing to the Acorn are Boca Grande, Cotton Blossom, Dream Rush, and possibly Mistical Plan and Princess Janie.

Wait a While, the 3-year-old filly champion, will try to bounce back from a fifth-place finish in the Jenny Wiley when she heads a stellar field expected for the Grade 2, $300,000 Just a Game Stakes. Others pointing to the race include Karen's Caper, Mauralakana, Meribel, My Typhoon, and Take the Ribbon.

California speedball Bordonaro is expected to ship in to run the Grade 2, $200,000 True North Handicap at six furlongs. Others looking at the race include Council Member, Joey P., Sir Five Star, and Will he Shine. Keyed Entry is possible.

A competitive field is lining up for the Grade 2, $250,000 Woody Stephens, including multiple stakes winner Street Magician, undefeated New York-bred Bustin Stones, Deadly Dealer, Hobbitontherocks, Not for Money, Sports Town, Teuflesberg, and possibly Stormello, Adore the Gold, Bill Place, and Xchanger.

Mighty Eros recovering from infection

An infection that Mighty Eros has been fighting for a few weeks forced her to miss Sunday's $75,000 Cupecoy's Joy, for which she would have been heavily favored.

"She had a very odd illness," trainer Tom Bush said. "They're still not sure where in the body she was holding the infection, but she definitely had one. She actually went to the track for the first time [Friday] in about a month."

Bush said Mighty Eros has to take a "wicked-tasting oral anitbiotic" four times a day for up to three weeks.

Mighty Eros, won her first two starts by a combined 17 3/4 lengths. That included a 6o1/2-length score in the Park Avenue Division of the New York Stallion Stakes in April at Aqueduct.

Bush is hoping that he can get Mighty Eros ready in time to run in an allowance race and then perhaps take a shot at the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on Aug. 4.

* The racing office will take double entries on Sunday for the racing cards of Thursday and Friday.