06/03/2009 11:00PM

Hill Prince pace should set up Lime Rickey

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Lime Rickey finished second in three consecutive stakes races at Gulfstream Park earlier this year, each time coming up short with his late run. On Friday at Belmont Park, in the Grade 3, $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes, Lime Rickey will get a chance to break through and earn his first stakes win, because the pace of the race should flatter his closing charge.

"It sets up very well for him," said Frank Alexander, who trains Lime Rickey. "There's a lot of speed."

Indeed, with the likes of Duke of Homberg, Despite the Odds, Florentino, Heros Image, and Affirmatif - all of whom like to race on or near the lead - the race shape of the Hill Prince could benefit Lime Rickey and the rapidly developing Conservative.

The Hill Prince, for 3-year-olds, is at one mile on turf, the same distance and surface over which Lime Rickey beat a first-level allowance field here on May 14.

"I wanted to get his confidence up a little bit," Alexander said. "He's a good horse who's still learning. His last race helped a lot. He's been a little slow to come around. He hasn't got that killer instinct just yet, which we hope he'll get.

"He worked really well on Monday, and he's not usually the greatest work horse. He just needs a little bit of luck. He's been a little bit of a hard-luck horse."

Conservative is making his first start since he rallied to finish second in the Lexington Stakes on Polytrack at Keeneland on April 18. Earlier this year, he showed his fondness for turf with a pair of excellent efforts in maiden races at Gulfstream Park, including a win. Like Lime Rickey, Conservative can sit back and blast home.

Affirmatif has won twice in three starts, including a victory just 20 days ago in the Woodlawn Stakes at Pimlico on the Preakness Stakes undercard. Much has been expected of him since a powerful nine-length debut win at Gulfstream in February.

"Physically, he's doing well. He's still a work in progress mentally," said Todd Pletcher, who trains Affirmatif. "He's still putting it all together. This is a much tougher field than he faced in the Woodlawn. He's going to need to continue to improve."

Duke of Homberg scored a front-running win over Lime Rickey in the Hallandale Beach Stakes at Gulfstream in February, but has not raced since fading to last after opening a sizeable lead in the six-horse Palm Beach Stakes in March. Jockey Ramon Dominguez takes over on Duke of Homberg, who is trained by the red-hot Tom Albertrani.