05/25/2005 11:00PM

No spring break for Chekhov

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Chekhov suffered quarter cracks in February, but quickly recovered to win his maiden on May 8.

ELMONT, N.Y. - When it became apparent that Chekhov wouldn't be able to make the Kentucky Derby, trainer Patrick Biancone started thinking about the summer and the Travers Stakes.

After Chekhov developed two quarter cracks coming out of the Sham Stakes on Feb. 5, Biancone was willing to be extremely patient with the colt, who cost $3.3 million at auction as a 2-year-old.

Chekhov wasn't willing to wait. Coming to hand quickly this spring, Chekhov romped to an 8 1/4-length maiden win at Belmont Park on May 8.

That performance earned Chekhov a shot in Saturday's $200,000 at Belmont. An equally impressive performance in the Grade 2 Peter Pan could earn Chekhov a start in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 11 against the likes of Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, Preakness winner Afleet Alex, Lone Star Derby winner Southern Africa, and Sir Barton Stakes winner Pinpoint.

Since 1979, the Peter Pan has produced five Belmont Stakes winners: Coastal (1979), Danzig Connection (1986), A.P. Indy (1992), Colonial Affair (1993), and Lemon Drop Kid (1999).

A field of eight was entered in the Peter Pan, run at nine furlongs. Only four of those are nominated to the Triple Crown. The other four - including Robador, the only stakes winner in the field - would have to pay a $100,000 supplemental fee to run in the Belmont.

Chekhov raced greenly in his first two starts, finishing second in his only race as a 2-year-old and third in his first start at 3. Biancone equipped Chekhov with blinkers for the Sham Stakes, where he was off slowly and made a mild late run to finish fifth, 2 3/4 lengths behind Going Wild.

Chekhov developed two quarter cracks after the race, and Biancone decided to let the foot grow out rather than try to patch it and run. In his maiden victory, with blinkers off, Chekhov settled into midpack, made a four-wide move around the turn, and easily passed three battling leaders. He covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.35 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

"I think he has improved since he won," Biancone said. "We'll see how good he is. We like the horse very much, we think he's an exceptionally talented horse, but I'd prefer to tell you that after the race.

"We expect to win," he added. "We hope to run in the Belmont if he wins. What I wish and what they do is sometimes different."

One hour after Chekhov won his maiden, Reverberate won an entry-level allowance race at the same distance, running 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.29. He has improved with the addition of blinkers and is potentially the main speed in the Peter Pan. His trainer, Sal Russo, said he believes Reverberate will appreciate longer distances. A good performance in the Peter Pan could earn him a spot in the Belmont.

It is unclear whether the other six horses have designs on the Belmont. Oratory, Robador, Golden Man, and Gorbash are not Triple Crown nominees. Golden Man, who won a nine-furlong allowance race at Gulfstream in his first start off a claim by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., could be supplemented if he runs well Saturday.

Sir Greeley could be an intriguing play in the Peter Pan, though trainer Jimmy Jerkens is not seriously thinking Belmont. Since being gelded after his second start, Sir Greeley has won twice on the dirt by a combined 19 1/2 lengths. His final time of 1:34.19 for his April 14 allowance win was the fastest of more than 90 races run at one mile during Aqueduct's spring meet. On May 11, Sir Greeley was beaten a head in a second-level allowance race on turf. Not Phone, a 7-year-old, won the race in a sharp 1:33.30.

"Didn't have anything to lose, and it was a way to keep him going long," Jerkens said when asked why Sir Greeley ran on the turf. "I thought if he really took to it, great, if he didn't, no big deal. I thought he ran a sensational race."

Oratory, a son of Pulpit, has 2 wins and 2 seconds from 4 starts. Trainer Tom Albertrani believes the colt is improving and could have a strong second half of the year. Albertrani felt that Oratory simply ran out of racetrack when beaten one length in a second-level allowance at nine furlongs at Aqueduct on April 30.

Robador took advantage of a hot pace to win the April 24 Snow Chief Stakes for California-breds while still a maiden. Trainer Eoin Harty has shipped Robador cross-country with the idea of trying to find out if the colt's win was a fluke or a true measure of his ability.

In other Belmont Stakes news:

* Buzzards Bay, the Santa Anita Derby winner who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, is only "50-50" to run in the Belmont, trainer Jeff Mullins said Thursday. Buzzards Bay worked five furlongs in 57.40 seconds Monday at Santa Anita, the fastest of 31 at the distance.

"He had a really, really fast work the other day, and it kind of concerned me," Mullins said from Southern California. "He's training like he wants to run seven-eighths right now."

Mullins said Buzzards Bay would work again Monday at Santa Anita, "then we'll probably make a decision," he said.

* Trainer Nick Zito said Pinpoint, winner of the Sir Barton Stakes, is "75-25" to run in the Belmont. Zito said he would wait a few days before searching for a jockey.

* Due to the confirmed case of strangles at Delaware Park, the New York Racing Association put a ban on horses shipping in from that track. That shouldn't affect the status of Preakness runner-up Scrappy T if his connections elect to run in the Belmont. On Wednesday, trainer Robert Bailes shipped Scrappy T from Delaware to Bowie, Md., where Bailes also has stalls.

"Seems like everything continues to work out," Bailes said. "Just got lucky. I ended up shipping three horses up there and decided to move him down where I was."

Bailes said he plans on meeting with owner Marshall Dowell this weekend to decide what to do next with Scrappy T.

* A.P. Arrow, who won a maiden race at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs on May 14, worked four furlongs in 47.40 seconds Thursday at Churchill. He is listed as possible for the Belmont.