05/24/2007 12:00AM

Great Hunter a go; 'Nobiz' opts out

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Great Hunter's connections hope the decision to skip the Preakness will pay off in the Belmont.

Great Hunter is in, Nobiz Like Shobiz is out, and Hard Spun is likely to run in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Meanwhile, Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense returned to the track Thursday for the first time since getting beat by a head in the Preakness. He galloped an easy mile at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Mark Cutler. His connections said they want to evaluate the colt for a few more days before making a final decision on whether to run in the Belmont.

Great Hunter is hoping to follow a trend that has worked in three of the past seven runnings of the Belmont. That is, run a mediocre race in the Kentucky Derby, pass the Preakness, and come in fresh for the Belmont.

Commendable was the first to be successful with that move in 2000, winning the Belmont - which did not have the Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner - after running 17th in the Derby. In 2004, Birdstone, who skipped the Preakness after running eighth in the Derby, derailed the Triple Crown bid of Smarty Jones. Last year, in another Belmont that did not include the Derby or Preakness winner, Jazil won after finishing in a dead heat for fourth in the Derby.

Great Hunter, who broke from post 20, finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby. He was in 11th position, racing three to four wide, entering the first turn. He made a sustained, albeit wide, bid from the middle of the backstretch to the quarter pole before flattening out in the stretch. He was beaten 20 3/4 lengths by Street Sense.

Trainer Doug O'Neill decided to regroup and shipped him back to Southern California. On Thursday, Great Hunter worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 over the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park. It was his first work since the Derby. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 and went out seven furlongs in 1:27.

"I see him back to the weight we had him before going in the Kentucky Derby," O'Neill said. "The Derby itself threw him for a loop. He got pretty worked up in the paddock. He was too fresh to go a mile and a quarter."

O'Neill said Great Hunter would likely ship to New York on June 4 or 5 and will get a couple of schooling sessions in Belmont's paddock.

Meanwhile, Nobiz Like Shobiz, the 10th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, also worked Thursday, but trainer Barclay Tagg said he is not pointing his Wood Memorial winner to the Belmont. Nobiz Like Shobiz breezed five furlongs in 1:00.32 over Belmont Park's main track under jockey Cornelio Velasquez, and he is being pointed to the Dwyer Stakes here on July 4. Tagg also mentioned the Jim Dandy and Travers at Saratoga this summer as races he'd like to make with Nobiz Like Shobiz, who is owned by Elizabeth Valando.

"The only way I'd run him in the Belmont is if there were a couple of horses in it and they had [speed] figures that were a lot worse than his," Tagg said. "I might be tempted to run him for a million dollars if it was all right with Mrs. Valando. But I don't think she's real keen on running in it, and I'm not real keen on running in it either. I'd rather just freshen him up till the Dwyer."

For the second straight week, Nobiz Like Shobiz worked without blinkers, but Tagg was non-committal whether the colt would run in the Dwyer without them.

"I didn't want to work him in blinkers because I didn't want him to be too aggressive," Tagg said.

At Delaware Park, Derby runner-up and Preakness third-place finisher Hard Spun had been back training for two days on Thursday. On Thursday, he galloped 1 1/8 miles, with his trainer, Larry Jones, in the irons.

"Everything's good, he bounced all the way home," Jones said. "He's wanting to get back in the game."

Still, Jones wouldn't commit Hard Spun to the Belmont just yet.

"We have not made a firm commitment yet, actually," Jones said. "He's eating well, he's gone to the track two days now, he absolutely seems no worse for the wear. We're not seeing any reasons not to go on. But me being the pessimist that I am, I'm waiting for the sky to fall. Something bad has to be happening, I'm just not seeing it."

Though owner Rick Porter has been quoted as being critical of jockey Mario Pino's ride in the Preakness, Jones said no decision has yet been made on whether to replace Pino.

"Nothing has been determined good, bad, or indifferent," Jones said.

* Curlin, the Preakness winner, was on the track with the second set of trainer Steve Asmussen's local string at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. He schooled at the gate and galloped 1 1/4 miles under exercise rider Carmen Rosas. Curlin returned to training Wednesday.

Asmussen said he intends to work Curlin early Monday morning.

* Peter Pan winner Sightseeing returned to the track Thursday. Trainer Shug McGaughey said no final decision has been made on whether to run in the Belmont.

* Trainer Jinks Fires said Prom Shoes, the Peter Pan runner-up, won't run in the Belmont. He will instead be pointed to the Northern Dancer Stakes at Churchill Downs on June 16.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and Marty McGee