05/17/2009 11:00PM

Fast debut, turf pedigree in Pinckney Hill's favor


ELMONT, N.Y. - With Churchill Downs and Hollywood Park cutting back to four-day race weeks, many handicappers will turn their focus to Belmont Park on Wednesday, where a nine-race card that includes five turf events awaits their perusal.

Perhaps the most intriguing of the turf events is the seventh, a first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles on the outer turf course which drew a field of 10, mostly 3-year-olds from well-known barns. Le Grand Cru, trained by Allen Jerkens, is the only 4-year-old in the field.

In a competitive field, Pinckney Hill appears to rate a slight edge given a sharp debut and a pedigree that suggests he should enjoy the Belmont turf. Pinckney Hill, trained by Angel Penna Jr., overcame a slow start to win a one-mile maiden race at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 22 by three lengths under a hand ride from Cornelio Velasquez. He is a half-brother to English Colony, who went 3 for 4 on Belmont turf, though mostly in sprints.

"He was last, but he wasn't disconnected,'' trainer Angel Penna said about the trouble Pinckney Hill had in his debut. "We didn't want to be that far back, but he made a move that was pretty good.''

Pinckney Hill, a son of A.P. Indy, ran a mile in 1:34.74 and earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for his debut.

According to Penna, Pinckney Hill developed a reaction to a blistering solution and his legs "blew up.'' Pinckney Hill missed significant amount of training time and didn't return to the work tab until Marcho25. He has been breezing steadily, if not spectacularly, ever since.

"He's never been a fancy horse, you're not going to see [a fast work] from him, but he gets the job done,'' Penna said.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out the coupled entry of Forest Bell and Echo in Eternity. Forest Bell finished last in a key dirt race won by Regal Ransom last summer at Saratoga. Forest Bell came out of that race with a hind ankle injury that needed time. When he returned, he was a dream-trip winner of a one-mile maiden turf event at Gulfstream Park. He saved ground until the top of the stretch before tipping out to the three path for the stretch drive.

Pletcher said he tried Forest Bell on the turf because he had trained better on that surface than he had on dirt. Echo in Eternity, Pletcher said, was entered in a shorter allowance race on turf that didn't fill.

"I'll be interested to see how he handles a mile. I think he's probably best suited for five to seven furlongs,'' Pletcher said.

Prime Delivery finished third to Stormalory in this same condition at Gulfstream in February. Stormalory came back to win the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland before suffering a fatal injury at Churchill Downs in his next start.

The Bill Mott-trained Strike Again has twice been defeated in this condition after winning his debut at Gulfstream. Most recently, Strike Again was fifth in a race at Keeneland that produced three next-out winners, including Affirmatif, who won the Woodlawn Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday.