09/09/2008 12:00AM

Music Note confirms liking for Belmont


ELMONT, N.Y. - Music Note might be a city girl at heart.

Music Note returned downstate last week and has reinforced her connections' belief that she prefers Belmont Park to Saratoga. On Monday, Music Note worked a strong five furlongs in 59.84 seconds in preparation for a start in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Gazelle Stakes.

"I thought she breezed a little better over this track than she did over the Greentree Polytrack up there,'' said Rick Mettee, who oversees Sheikh Mohammed's New York division of Godolphin Racing runners. "She seemed to really quicken up and finish good. It could be that this big track is more to her liking.''

Music Note certainly didn't run a bad race when beaten a head by Proud Spell in the Grade 1 Alabama last month at Saratoga. But, she did look better at Belmont winning an allowance race, the Mother Goose, and Coaching Club American Oaks - a pair of Grade 1 stakes.

Saturday, not only does Music Note get to run over her favorite surface, she won't have to contend with Proud Spell, the Kentucky Oaks winner who appears likely for the Fitz Dixon Cotillion at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 20. In the Alabama, Music Note appeared to have dead aim on Proud Spell in the stretch, but Proud Spell would not let Music Note pass her.

"It's not like she didn't run her race in the Alabama,'' Mettee said. "I think she ran her race. . . . [Proud Spell] is probably more of a battle-tested filly and responded to the challenge, obviously.''

Without Proud Spell, Music Note figures to be heavily favored over a field that figures to include Awesome I Am, Country Star, Hamsa, Highest Class, and possibly Never Retreat.

Six likely for Futurity

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will send out a potent duo of Charitable Man and Girolamo in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Futurity, which is likely to draw a field of six.

Charitable Man, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, won his debut by 11 1/2 lengths at Saratoga on Aug. 10, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:17.61 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 96. Six days later, Girolamo, a son of A.P. Indy, came from off the pace to win a seven-furlong maiden race by 3o1/4 lengths. He ran seven furlongs in 1:24.70 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86.

McLaughlin said he would prefer not to run both horses against each other, but with a bevy of 2-year-olds and just a few stakes opportunities, he feels like he has no choice.

Alan Garcia rode both horses to their debut wins, but is expected to ride Charitable Man, McLaughlin said. John Velazquez will ride Girolamo. Others expected to run include Friesan Fire and High Mesa, both debut winners at Delaware Park for trainer Larry Jones; Kensei, a debut winner for Steve Asmussen at Saratoga; and Gone Astray, a second-out winner for trainer Shug McGaughey.

On Monday, Gone Astray worked four furlongs in 47.11 seconds over Belmont's main track, the second-fastest of 62 works at the distance.

Persistently heads Matron

McGaughey will also be well-represented in the Matron with Persistently, who showed a strong closing kick to win a seven-furlong maiden race at Saratoga in her second start.

Persistently heads a Matron field that is expected to include Argyle Pink, Holiday Girl, Juliet's Spirit, Miss Bodine, Miss Ocean City, Obsequious, and Saintly Rose.

On Monday, Persistently worked five furlongs in 1:02.11 over Belmont's main track.

Mighty Eros returns in feature

Mighty Eros appeared on her to way big things in the spring of 2007 until a freak stall accident sent her to the farm. Thursday, she returns in a second-level allowance race for New York-bred fillies and mares, and even her trainer, Tom Bush, isn't sure what to expect.

"She's training well," Bush said. "She's a little bit more unsettled than she was when she was a young horse and I don't really know why. She used to be super phlegmatic, and she's a little bit quirky right now. I don't really know how to gauge how she's going to run. She trained well enough, but not probably as well as she did in the past. I don't really have my pulse on it, but hopefully she's going to show up; she's still a big, strong beautiful filly.''

Mighty Eros won the first two starts of her career by a combined 17o3/4 lengths, including a division of the New York Stallion Stakes. Mighty Eros caught her halter on a screw eye in her stall and injured her spinal column.

"She had a brand new halter and I had just moved into Barn 27 and I had all new screw eyes in the walls and she couldn't free herself,'' Bush said. "She just strained herself so bad that she pulled everything through her spine and neck and she couldn't even bend her head. We had to turn her out for a long time.''

If Mighty Eros is not able to reproduce the form she showed at 3, then Thursday's feature likely becomes a battle between Oniyome and Casey's Tribe. Oniyome already won in this condition at Saratoga after being disqualified from a first-level allowance win at Belmont on July 10. Casey's Tribe has twice finished behind Oniyome. Both have been chasing Under Serviced, who won Sunday's Schenectady Handicap against fillies and mares.

Kip Deville still likely for BC Mile

Despite a fifh-place finish in Sunday's Woodbine Mile, Kip Deville remains on course for the Breeders' Cup Mile, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said Tuesday.

Dutrow said he still cannot find a valid reason why Kip Deville ran so poorly and hopes it was just a case of him not liking the turf course. Kip Deville finished second in the Woodbine Mile last year over the same course before winning the Breeders' Cup Mile.

While owner Michael Iavarone would like to run Kip Deville in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 4, Dutrow said he would prefer to just train the horse up to the Breeders' Cup.

IEAH purchases two with Cup hopes

Iavarone said that IEAH has privately purchased two horses it hopes can participate in this year's Breeders' Cup.

IEAH purchased Pictural, a 4-year-old son of El Prado who won a first-level allowance race by two lengths on Aug. 24 at Del Mar, earning a 99 Beyer Speed Figure. The horse was scheduled to arrive in Dutrow's Aqueduct barn on Tuesday and Iavarone said he wants to run the horse in the Phoenix at Keeneland on Oct. 4,

The Phoenix is part of the Breeders' Cup's Win and You're In initiative, meaning if Pictural wins that race he earns an automatic berth into the BC Sprint. For IEAH, Pictural replaces Benny the Bull, who suffered a career-ending injury last month and was retired.

"He ran huge on synthetic at Del Mar, ran a huge Beyer," Iavarone said. "I think we can improve him. Got high hopes if we can get in. The division is wide open. I don't think Benny would have run well over the synthetic anyway; I think he would have struggled.''

IEAH also bought Laragh, a 2-year-old filly who won a maiden race second time out for owner Mike Ryan and trainer Mark Casse. Iavarone said Laragh will run for Casse in Sunday's Natalma Stakes at Woodbine before shipping to New York to go to either Dutrow or Bobby Frankel. Iavarone's hope is to make the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with Laragh.