10/15/2008 12:00AM

New York-bred Russian Sage can handle open rivals


ELMONT, N.Y. - New York Showcase Day isn't until Saturday, but it just may be a statebred runner who shines in a $57,000 second-level allowance race for open company Friday at Belmont Park.

Though carded as the opener, this one-mile allowance on the outer turf course carries the highest purse of the nine races on the card. Russian Sage, a 3-year-old New York-bred son of City Zip, has run well in open company before. Last November, he beat the highly regarded Moral Compass in a first-level allowance race at Aqueduct. In July, at Belmont, he was beaten one length in this condition, and in August he was beaten just one-half length in an open overnight stakes at Saratoga.

Trainer Tim Ritvo thought last month's Floral Park Stakes for New York-breds was a good spot for Russian Sage, but he finished a disappointing fourth, beaten two lengths. It was his first start in eight weeks.

Ritvo said the Floral Park was a race that didn't go for several days from the time it was originally carded, and perhaps the extra time worked against his horse.

"I think he'll run real well in here," Ritvo said. "He's doing as good as he has all year. He comes to run; he always tries hard."

Russian Sage is the only member of the field to have won at the one-mile distance. Ritvo reunites Russian Sage with Edgar Prado, who rode him two starts back when the horse encountered some trouble midway around the turn.

Russian Sage figures to be forwardly placed in a field lacking real early speed. Sailaway Pops has been on the lead in his last three starts, but the pace in those races was pedestrian.

Loconia has some speed and figures to use it from his outside post. The 5-year-old gelding is making his first start since January, and first for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Loconia is the only horse in the field offered for the optional claiming price of $50,000. McLaughlin bats a healthy .320 in claiming races.

Blazing Dynamo and Pick Six have been mired in this condition for a long time, but figure to be flying in the stretch.

The only other allowance race on the card is a 6o1/2-furlong dirt race for fillies and mares that have never won two races. Wish Me Success returns from a long layoff caused by a stress fracture suffered in April. There appears to be ample speed in this field to set it up for this 3-year-old filly's late run.