06/16/2005 11:00PM

Mount Vernon split again

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ELMONT, N.Y. - For the third time in four years, there were enough entries for the Mount Vernon Handicap that the Belmont Park racing office split the race into two divisions. Each division of Sunday's nine-furlong grass stakes will be worth $75,000.

A total of 17 New York-bred fillies and mares were entered, creating an eight-horse division that goes as race 6, and a nine-horse field that goes as race 8. , the New York-bred champion turf female of 2004, heads the first division. On the Bus, who split decisions with Sabellina in two statebred stakes last year, makes her seasonal debut in the other division.

Sabellina won four consecutive races against New York-breds last summer. Since then, she is winless in six starts, her best effort being a second-place finish to On the Bus in the Ticonderoga. Sabellina is coming off a tough-trip third against open company on June 2.

Sabellina's problem is the fact she is a closer in a race lacking speed. is the closest thing to a front-runner in the field. She won a statebred entry-level allowance over this course and distance last October while racing close to the pace. Lately, she has been sprinting on dirt.

The last time moved from a dirt sprint to a turf route, she won a statebred second-level allowance race at Saratoga at 12-1. Javier Castellano, aboard for that win, gets back aboard Sunday.

The second division is deeper than the first. On the Bus, trained by Dale Romans, is 3 for 4 at Belmont. Her only loss came in this race last year when she finished third as the 4-5 favorite. On the Bus is making her first start since last November with a limited work tab. She is also the 119-pound highweight from post 8.

Exchange Bay and The Lamp Is Lit finished third and fourth in a key open-company race on May 12. Exchange Bay is winless in three starts at nine furlongs.

The Lamp Is Lit has run well twice this year and gets a jockey switch to Jerry Bailey as well as an inside post. Trainer Rick Schosberg believes the five weeks between races as well as the stretch out to nine furlongs should help his horse.

"She's probably better with a little more time between races," Schosberg said. "I maybe rushed into that race.''

Kevin's Decision, never worse than second from five turf starts, and Beebe Lake, second in the faster division of last year's Mount Vernon, are also contenders in this division.