05/07/2010 11:00PM

Masala tries to fire fresh for new barn

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Officially, there is no stakes race at Belmont Park on Sunday. But the $55,000 second-level optional $50,000 claiming feature drew a stakes-caliber nine-horse field, several of whom are dropping out of stakes and/or coming off long layoffs.

Masala, who makes his first start for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., hasn't run since finishing fourth in the Curlin Stakes last August at Saratoga. While that stakes was restricted to horses who had not won a stakes race, it produced graded winners Blame and Gone Astray.

Masala won an allowance race at Belmont last June 13 when he was trained by Allen Jerkens. Owner John Fort moved Masala to Dutrow during the winter. Masala was training at Gulfstream before moving to Monmouth Park, where on Tuesday he worked six furlongs in 1:16.

"He's probably going to need a race to run big," said Dutrow, who also entered El Real Madrid, but is not sure he will run. "He likes Belmont. That's why I picked Belmont. I'm sure he'll show up in the race."

Masala, who breaks from post 2 under Ramon Dominguez, would appear to appreciate a fast early pace. He is likely to get it with Driven by Success, Imperial Council, Flat Bold, and Barreling Home in the field.

Driven by Success, who finished third in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap last year, drops into allowance company for the first time in 12 starts. Most recently, he finished last in the Grade 1 Carter at Aqueduct. In hopes of getting him to relax, Todd Pletcher is removing the blinkers from Driven by Success. Pletcher was dismayed when his New York-bred gelding drew the rail.

"Trying to change things up a little bit, see if he'll settle going a mile," Pletcher said of the blinker removal. "I was hoping we drew a different post than we did."

Imperial Council has finished third in all three of his starts this year, including the Grade 2 Commonwealth Stakes run over Keeneland's Polytrack. Trainer Shug McGaughey, who said he's not sure his horse wants a mile, said he would prefer to see jockey Jose Lezcano get Imperial Council to sit behind at least one other horse.

"I'd like to see if he could lay a little bit off it, not far," McGaughey said. "His best races are when he's up close."

Stevil, who is 3 for 5 at Belmont but 0 for 8 at a mile, Retriever, and Chris Got Even complete the field.