06/04/2004 11:00PM

Fire Slam takes Riva Ridge

Fire Slam, on the rail with Pat Day riding, gets the best of Teton Forest in the Riva Ridge, winning by a head.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Under a rail-skimming ride from Pat Day, Fire Slam won a stretch-long battle with Teton Forest to win Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 by a head at Belmont Park.

It was 3 1/4 lengths back to Abbondanza in third. Value Plus, the 6-5 favorite finished sixth in the seven-horse field.

It was the second straight stakes win for Fire Slam and fifth overall from eight career starts. He is undefeated at a mile or under.

Breaking from post 2, Day kept Fire Slam along the inside while Smokume and Teton Forest battled through fractions of 22.40 and 45.08 seconds. Value Plus, who many expected to be on the lead, was chasing in third.

Turning for home, Smokume drifted off the rail, and Day shot his horse through the opening. It looked like Fire Slam would blow by Teton Forest in the stretch, but Fire Slam's tendency to wait on horses nearly caught up to him. Still, he had enough to hang on, covering the seven furlongs in 1:20.94 and paying $7.60 to win.

"They went legitimate fractions the first part of the race. Pat always looked comfortable throughout the race," trainer David Carroll said. "He had intended to wait a little bit longer, but when [Smokume] drifted out a little bit, he had to make that decision to go."

The connections of Value Plus had to be anything but thrilled. The big gray colt looked to be well spotted cutting back from the 1 1/8 miles of the Wood Memorial to seven furlongs, but couldn't make the lead, then drifted out badly in the stretch. He was beaten by 12 1/2 lengths.

John Velazquez, the rider of Value Plus, said, "I put my hands down and waited for him to put me somewhere, and he didn't go anywhere."

Carroll said the Grade 1 King's Bishop, run Aug. 28 at Saratoga, is the goal for Fire Slam. Carroll said he would consider the $100,000 Don Bernhardt Memorial Stakes July 24 at Ellis Park or the Grade 3, $150,000 Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga as a prep.