06/02/2009 12:00AM

Lofty names in meat-and-potatoes race


ELMONT, N.Y. - When trainers like Billy Turner, Bobby Frankel, and Kiaran McLaughlin are in the same sentence the first week in June, the subject must be the Belmont Stakes, for all three trainers have won the Test of the Champion.

Guess again. In Thursday's featured eighth race, they send out the first three morning-line choices in a $49,000 third-level allowance at six furlongs.

Frankel will saddle 5-2 morning-line choice Fidelio, a Stronach Stable homebred whose first New York start came against eventual 2007 juvenile champion War Pass, and whose next two New York races were allowance wins on fast and wet tracks at Belmont last year. He hasn't raced since finishing second in a Gulfstream optional claimer in January. The Awesome Again colt has won twice off works, and tuned up with a bullet five furlongs Saturday.

The McLaughlin-trained Keep Laughing, the 3-1 second choice, won the Lafayette last year, and cuts back to six furlongs after finishing evenly as the 3-2 favorite going a mile first out at the meet.

Turner, who won the 1977 Triple Crown with Seattle Slew, has the one to catch in 7-2 third choice Drift King. The gray 4-year-old went wire to wire at 32-1 on opening day of Belmont's 2008 spring meet, and turned back Desert Key to win his second-level condition here May 6.

"We don't send him to the lead, but if he gets there easily he gets really tough," said Turner, who was unfazed by a showery forecast.

"He's won in the mud, and the track was drying out last time," he noted.

Shoptate, a lightly raced Hobeau Farm homebred, won a maiden race in his only start at Belmont last year. The 5-year-old won twice from off the pace on Aqueduct's inner track, and hasn't run for nearly three months, since chasing recent Grade 2 winner Accredit.

"A couple races didn't go," said trainer Steve Jerkens. "We gave him a little break but he's never really been out of training. He's been galloping and breezing, and he's training good."

Pictural, who in his only start on dirt beat last year's Belmont Stakes winner Da' Tara at Gulfstream Park, is an off-the-pace threat for Rick Dutrow. He flattened out in a turf route as the favorite last out.

Also entered were Flashstorm and the David Jacobson-trained entry of I Ain't No Saint and Malibu Moonshine.