07/16/2009 11:00PM

Godolphin's fortunes should improve


ELMONT, N.Y. - Tam Lin won an overnight stakes Thursday at Belmont Park to get Godolphin Racing off the duck.

It was the first win at the meet for the stable that is usually a prominent presence. The barn was winless in 10 tries until Tam Lin broke the ice.

As Belmont winds down, things are starting to look brighter with Saratoga getting underway on July 28.

"This is the first time we've done it from Dubai in a couple of years instead of Florida," said assistant trainer Rick Mettee. "It's a little different. Some of the ones coming back from Dubai are going to take some time. Some we left in Kentucky needed a race. Horses like Cocoa Beach and Music Note should come back and run better up at Saratoga."

Both Grade 1 winners were disappointments in their season debuts at this meet. Cocoa Beach lost an overnight stakes in the slop at 1-5 while Music Note was fifth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap.

Horses such as Tam Lin and Two Step Salsa ran over the winter in Dubai and needed freshening.

"It's been a process," Mettee said. "It's been an adjustment, even when we have stock like we do."

Now comes the process of picking targets at Saratoga.

Tam Lin could be headed for the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap on Aug. 2, the same day Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap winner Seventh Street competes in the Grade 1 Go For Wand.

Schedules are less certain for the other runners.

"Cocoa Beach could run early in the meet," Mettee said. "Music Note might be later in the meet."

One horse who might make Saratoga is Vineyard Haven, a multiple Grade 1 winner last year. He has not raced since returning from Dubai and is just starting back, having breezed twice at Belmont.

"There is chance he could make the end of Saratoga," Mettee said. "The Jerome at Belmont in the fall might be a good race for him going one mile on a track he won a Grade 1 race on last year."

Midshipman, last season's 2-year-old champion who missed the Triple Crown with a soft-tissue injury, could have his first breeze over the weekend - weather permitting.

Casanova Move probable for Oaks

The Grade 1, $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/4 miles on July 25 is the final major event left in the meet.

It will be a more inviting spot, with super filly Rachel Alexandra pointed toward another battle with the colts in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 2.

Todd Pletcher nominated five to the CCA Oaks with Casanova Move, third last time out in the Grade 1 Acorn, the only one likely to make the race. It will be her first start for Pletcher since the transfer from trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

"The distance is pretty much a question mark for every one of them," Pletcher said. "This filly is gritty and determined. I think a mile-and-a-quarter should suit her fine."

Other expected runners include Devotee, Don't Forget Gil, Funny Moon, and Hightap.

Purse incentives return at Spa

The New York Racing Association is bringing back the purse incentive program designed to encourage larger fields during the Saratoga meet.

Any dirt field that leaves the paddock with more than eight betting interests will see the purse increased: 10 percent for maiden, maiden claiming, and claiming races; 15 percent for allowance races and overnight stakes.

Additional bonuses will be tacked onto distance races.

For dirt races at 1 1/8 miles or longer, the purse will be boosted for every betting interest above six.

In maiden races, the increase will be $4,000 for each betting interest above six. The corresponding increases are $6,000 for allowance races and $8,000 for money allowances and overnight stakes.

On the turf, additional money will be added to races longer than 1 1/8 miles with more than eight betting interests.

The incentive levels are the same as the dirt races: $4,000 for each betting interest above eight in maiden races, $6,000 in allowance races, and $8,000 in money allowances and overnight stakes.

If a race carded for the turf is shifted to the main track, the purse will be boosted 20 percent if eight or more betting interests leave the paddock.

"This year we decided to take it a step further with purse increases for all dirt races with more than eight betting interests," said P.J. Campo, NYRA's vice president and director of racing.