06/15/2004 11:00PM

Handle rises 12.3 percent


ELMONT, N.Y. - So far, so good for business at the Belmont spring/summer meet.

Wednesday began the second half of the 60-day stand and also marked the 18th consecutive day that all-sources handle was up when compared to last year. Sparked by a record-setting Belmont Stakes Day, all-sources handle through the first 30 days of the meet is up $46.6 million, or 12.3 percent, compared to last year.

Total all-sources handle on Belmont Day was $114,887,594, a Belmont Park record.

"The hitting streak is at 18, and we'll probably go beyond 20," said Bill Nader, senior vice president for the New York Racing Association, who cited good weather, good racing, and the lower takeout as reasons why business has soared. "Business has been incredibly strong beginning with the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend."

On-track business is up, though not as dramatically. Even with a record crowd of 120,139 on Belmont Day, total attendance is up only 1.5 percent over last year. On-track handle is up 3.4 percent to an average of $1,587,839.

Bowman's Band to await Suburban

Bowman's Band, the runner-up in the Metropolitan Handicap, was not entered for Saturday's $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap and instead will be pointed to the Grade 1, $500,000 Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park on July 3.

Bowman's Band has already run in five graded stakes this year and trainer Allen Jerkens said he wants to have a horse for the remainder of the year. Bowman's Band finished second in the Hal's Hope, and third in both the Skip Away and Pimlico Special.

"Can't do everything," Jerkens said. "We're trying to run in the Suburban and in the fall of the year. If he goes in the Suburban and could ever win a Grade 1 it would be special."

Bowman's Band's biggest win to date came in last fall's Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup.

Jerkens will have plenty of stakes action to look forward to in the coming weeks. Saturday, he sends out Passing Shot in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap. Society Selection, second in the Acorn, will run in the Grade 1 Mother Goose on June 26; Why You, disqualified from first in a second-level allowance race on June 10, is being pointed to the Grade 1 Prioress on July 3. Medallist, winner of the Withers on May 1, could make the Dwyer on July 11, Jerkens said.

Bridge-jumpers take it on chin

Bridge-jumpers who sent it in to place and show on Grey Traffic in Wednesday's third race took a bath when the 1-5 shot finished fourth in the six-horse field.

Of the $142,002 wagered to show in the race, $131,203 was bet on Grey Traffic. The place pool had $69,875, of which $51,140 was wagered on Grey Traffic. Taittinger Rose won the race, and returned $12.40 to win, $9.40 to place, and $20.80 to show. Penny Dream, the longest shot in the field, returned $22 to place and $65.50 to show. Mambo Bell, a 16-1 shot, returned $45.60 to show.

Daniel Cincotta, a horseplayer from Flushing, N.Y. benefited the most from Grey Traffic's fourth-place finish. He won the $20,886 grand prize in the Belmont Spring SHOWdown contest. The on-line contest requires players to select one horse each day to finish first, second, or third in a race at Belmont. Cincotta was one of three players still alive heading into Wednesday. All three players selected Grey Traffic.

Cincotta, 70, won the tiebreaker because he had 13 winners, compared to Brian Marschall, who had 12, and Joel Kornblau, 11. Marschall, of Shelton, Conn., who won the 2001 Belmont Fall SHOWdown contest, took home the second-place prize of $5,221. Kornblau, of Manhasset, N.Y., won the third-place prize of $2,784.

Lion Heart works toward return

Lion Heart, the runner-up in the Kentucky Derby and fourth-place finisher in the Preakness, worked four furlongs in 48.64 seconds Wednesday morning over the Saratoga turf course.

Trainer Patrick Biancone said he is considering either the $500,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga or the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park for Lion Heart's next start. Both races are scheduled for Aug. 8.

* Jerry Bailey went 3 for 3 on Wednesday's card. He won the third with Taittinger Rose, the fourth with Still Guilty ($5.10), and the eighth aboard Silver Tree ($4.80).

John Velazquez also won three races on the card, from six mounts.