07/10/2008 11:00PM

Godolphin points two to CCA Oaks


ELMONT, N.Y. - One final week at Belmont Park, and then it's on to Saratoga.

Before they shut the doors here, Belmont has two final stakes on tap: the Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies next Saturday and the $100,000 Evan Shipman Handicap for New York-breds on closing day, July 20.

The field for the CCA Oaks could be small, now that Godolphin Stable has targeted two Grade 1 winners for the 1 1/4-mile race: Music Note and Little Belle.

Both will be using the CCA Oaks as a prep for the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga on Aug. 16.

Last time out, Music Note delivered a 3 1/2-length win in Belmont's Grade 1 Mother Goose in her stakes debut on June 28. She won despite stumbling badly at the break, losing one shoe and loosening another.

"She won it on two and a half shoes," said Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "We were lucky she came out of the race that good."

Music Note extended her winning streak to three in the Mother Goose.

"We decided that seven weeks between that race and the Alabama might be too much for a lightly raced filly," Mettee said. "This is obviously a good spot for her, a mile and a quarter going one turn."

Little Belle will make her first start for bin Suroor, having been transferred from the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin.

Little Belle wintered at Aqueduct, earning her first stakes win there on the inner track in the Busher. From there, she sprung a 16-1 upset in the Grade 1 Ashland on the synthetic track at Keeneland. Her last appearance was a second-place finish in the Kentucky Oaks, five lengths behind Proud Spell.

"She was a little scratchy when we got her in after that race," Mettee said. "The [Mother Goose] just came up a little too quick. We could have pushed her, but we didn't because we had Music Note."

Little Belle has not won beyond 1o1/16 miles, making distance a concern heading into the CCA Oaks.

"Kiaran seemed to think she would get it," Mettee said. "She has gradually improved with all of her races. This is the track she has trained on all spring and summer and this race is too good to pass."

Belmont stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes also expects Acoma, Never Retreat, and Seattle Smooth for the CCA Oaks.

Naughty New Yorker in or out?

Trainer Pat Kelly is sitting on the fence with Naughty New Yorker with respect to the Shipman. It could all hinge on the weight assigned to the 6-year-old, who is closing in on $1 million in career earnings.

Naughty New Yorker was seventh most recently in the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap, where he was rank, pulling Edgar Prado to the early lead.

"He lives up to his name every once in while," Kelly said slyly.

Byrnes lists Johnie Bye Night, Prince of Peace, Stormin Normandy, Stud Muffin, and Tommasi as likely Shipman runners.

Heir to the Stone a great catch

Robin Cardoza raised her hand at the Saratoga sales last August and when the hammer fell, she was the owner of Heir to the Stone for $5,000.

With the New York-bred chestnut son of Birdstone in tow, Cardoza quickly needed someone to train him.

"She was all alone at the sale," said trainer Rick Violette Jr. "She just liked this colt going into the ring. She liked Birdstone. She liked the way he looked.

"She called me the next morning to say she bought a horse the night before and, 'Now what do I do?'"

Turns out, Cardoza made the right call. Violette arranged for the colt to spend the winter with Niall Brennan in Florida before coming north to New York about two months ago.

Heir to the Stone put on a dazzling show in his debut Thursday, drawing off to 5 3/4-length win in a New York-bred maiden special weight while earning an 85 Beyer Speed Figure.

"He's done everything right," Violette said. "How fast he ran was a surprise. That he won was not. He has been training like a nice horse all along."

Heir to the Stone could turn out to a terrific bargain after selling for half of his sire's stud fee.

Violette, who first saw the colt this winter in Florida, speculated that he was so inexpensive because "he was probably on the small side and unimpressive looking. Even though Birdstone was a really good racehorse, he hasn't been commercial yet."

Given that Birdstone won the Belmont Stakes, Violette is confident Heir to the Stone will stretch out beyond Thursday's 5 1/2 furlongs.

"Strange things happen, and this could be one of them," he said. "I think he's got a shot to be any kind of horse. He's not a wound-up, cheap New York-bred type. He's a serious horse with a great mind."