06/09/2002 11:00PM

Four logical threats for turf


ELMONT, N.Y. - The dog days of summer - otherwise known as the six weeks between the Belmont Stakes and the opening of Saratoga - commence Wednesday at Belmont Park with a nine-race card highlighted by a second-level allowance race scheduled for the turf.

The Christophe Clement-trained Walking Around looks like the one to beat. Bred in France, Walking Around was racing out of condition when he fell a half-length short in a third-level allowance at Gulfstream on April 19. In addition to making his first start in 6 1/2 months and in this country, Walking Around was forced to steady entering the second turn and may have been compromised by a slow pace. Jose Santos, whose 21 victories have him in contention for a riding title, has the call.

Package Store placed in a pair of Grade 3 stakes at Belmont last year, but is still trying to win his first start since moving into trainer Tom Skiffington's barn in May 2001. After being defeated a neck in the Hill Prince and a length in the Lexington, Package Store ran ninth in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes at Arlington.

He came out of that race with an injured stifle and "a funny-looking tendon,'' according to Skiffington, who gave Package Store the rest of the year off.

He returned at Keeneland, where he finished third at this level after a six-wide trip before suffering a neck loss here on May 25. The extra furlong should help Package Store, who must overcome the outside post under John Velazquez.

Spotted Owl, trained by Bill Mott, finished two lengths behind Package Store in that May 25 race and returns to the distance of his last win on March 30 at Gulfstream. Since returning from a 14-month layoff, Spotted Owl has two wins and a third from four starts.

A little give in the ground could help Ballet Critic, trained by John Campo Jr., spring an upset. Ballet Critic has recorded both of his career wins over Belmont's turf course and comes off a solid second-place finish in his 4-year-old debut last month at Aqueduct.

Should forecasted thunderstorms move the race to the main track, Personal Pro and Tailfromthecrypt become the ones to beat.

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