06/18/2010 12:00AM

Fair weather helps Belmont business


ELMONT, N.Y. - Thanks in large part to cooperation from Mother Nature, business has been brisk at Belmont Park through the first half of the spring/summer meet.

Through last Sunday's 33rd card of the meet, total handle on Belmont races was $379,598,071, down 4 percent from last year's total of $395,24,768 on June 13, which was the 34th day of the meet. The daily average handle is $11,502,972, down 1.1 percent from last year's daily average of $11,627,199.

Total ontrack handle is $53,309,944, down 1.4 percent from last year's figure of $54,068,420. However, the daily average handle of $1,615,453 through 33 days is a 1.6 percent increase from last year's daily average of $1,590,248 through 34 days.

Daily average attendance is 5,552 this meet, down 6.2 percent compared with last year's figure of 5,922.

The discrepancy in total handle could be pinpointed to Belmont Stakes Day, when total handle was $74,613,144, down 16.8 percent from the 2009 total of $89,705,994. Attendance on Belmont Stakes Day was 45,243, down 13.3 percent from last year's crowd of 52,186.

"With one less day we're actually equal to last year," NYRA president Charles Hayward said. "Since the rest of the industry was down 8 percent in May, this is pretty encouraging."

One reason for the encouraging numbers is the fact that Belmont has been able to run 156 turf races through the first 33 days of the meet, compared with 107 through 34 days last summer, which was marred by wet weather. The additional turf races have translated into 378 more starters when compared with last year.

The solid business at Belmont follows a disappointing Aqueduct meet in which total handle was down 14.1 percent, from $565,924,129 in 2009 to $486,241,985. Daily average handle was down 9.5 percent from $7,163,597 to $6,483,226. The figures are from 75 cards run at Aqueduct in 2010 compared with 79 run in 2009. There were 681 races run at Aqueduct in 2010 compared with 720 run in 2009, resulting in 426 fewer betting interests.

Total attendance at Aqueduct was down 7.2 percent from 234,937 to 218,078.

You and I Forever now with Bush

The Grade 2 winner You and I Forever, who threw in a dud finishing last in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap here on May 31, has stayed in New York and been transferred to trainer Tom Bush. The horse had previously been trained by Marty Wolfson.

On Thursday, You and I Forever had his first work since the Met Mile, going four furlongs in 48.15 seconds over the main track under regular rider Javier Castellano.

"He absolutely loved the way the horse went," Bush said, referring to Castellano.

Bush said he is considering the Grade 2, $250,000 Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park for You and I Forever's next start.

"It doesn't look like on paper that he wants any further than that," Bush said.

Just before winning the Gulfstream Park Handicap, You and I Forever was purchased privately by Jafar Abudallah Algahtani of Saudi Arabia. Initially, the horse was going to Saudi Arabia as a stallion prospect before the decision was made to keep him in training for the remainder of the year.

Bush said You and I Forever has put on 50 to 75 pounds since the Met Mile. "I couldn't be more pleased with the way he's doing at the moment."

Dry Martini working towards return

Dry Martini, last year's Grade 2 Suburban winner, breezed four furlongs in 48.97 seconds Friday morning, his third workout since resuming training following ankle surgery. Dry Martini worked in company with Broken Home.

After finishing second to Quality Road in the Donn Handicap on Feb. 6 at Gulfstream Park, the 7-year-old Dry Martini underwent surgery to remove chips from an ankle, according to Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg

"We're kind of going along slow with him," Smullen said. "So far everything's great; ankles look good. When they did the operation they couldn't believe how good his bones were; they said he looks like he's got young horse bones. There was no damage to the cartilage or anything."

Smullen said Dry Martini could return to the races in late July or early August, but that he does not run well over Saratoga's main track. Thus, Smullen said, a start on turf is possible at Saratoga.

Sara Louise has second breeze

Sara Louise, who has not run since winning the Grade 2 Top Flight last Nov. 27, worked three furlongs in 38.12 seconds over the main track on Friday. It was her second three-furlong breeze of the year.

Sara Louise, who came off a long layoff to win the Grade 2 Victory Ride at Saratoga last year, is targeting that race again, according to assistant trainer Rick Mettee. The Victory Ride is run at Saratoga on Aug. 28.

"She's not going to be ready for the Bed o' Roses [on July 4]," Mettee said. "We'll take our time with her a little bit, we know she's going to fire well fresh."

Mettee also said that Regal Ransom is being pointed to the Grade 2, $300,000 Suburban here on July 3. Regal Ransom, who won the Super Derby last September, has not run since finishing eighth in the Breeders' Cup Classic in November.