07/28/2004 11:00PM

Note big biases, best races from Belmont meet


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Whether in person, by phone, or via e-mail, requests have been pouring in for a recap column concerning bias and track variants from the recently concluded Belmont spring-summer meet. So before we get into things at the Spa, a review of the most noteworthy dates and races from downstate might be handy.

The chart-like layout used to review the winter and spring meets at Aqueduct were unwieldy and difficult to read, especially on the many days when variants were split, so we're using a new format here - a narrative - and it mentions the relative speed of the track only on days when the surface seemed unusually fast or slow.

May 5 and 6 - The first two days of the meet had a dead rail, with virtually all dirt races dominated by outside pace-pressers and closers. Pies Prospect won a particularly strong entry-level allowance route and later returned to win a minor stakes at Delaware Park. Alumni Hall, the runner-up, came back to win two allowance races in Kentucky and then won an ungraded stakes at Arlington Park.

No one has come out of the slow-paced Westchester Handicap to do anything of note.

May 22 - Another day when outside paths appeared to be the best route home, notably Purge's four-wide stalking trip to win the Peter Pan at the expense of subsequent Iowa Derby winner Swingforthefences.

May 27 - Outside paths again were the preferred real estate on dirt. On turf, Delta Sensation overcame stretch traffic to nail pacesetter Savage Beauty in the final stride of the Terpsichorist, an ungraded $60,000 stakes for 3-year-old fillies that developed into an ultra-key race. Six of the nine fillies behind Delta Sensation came back to win their next start, including the last four finishers. Delta Sensation came back two starts later to win a third-level allowance by open lengths, and remains on target for the Lake George Stakes at Saratoga on Monday. Bet against her at your own peril.

May 28 - It was a speed-favoring track. Eight of the nine winners were one-two-three at the first call.

May 31 - A steady light rain began after the second race and continued throughout the Memorial Day card. The track seemed to slow during the later races, so the Met Mile fractions of 46 seconds and 1:10.04 were more demanding than the raw times suggest.

June 5 - Threatening skies failed to produce any rain for Belmont Stakes Day, and the dirt and turf were lightning-fast. Bear Fan wired the Vagrancy Handicap in record time, and Speightstown went 1:08.04 to win the True North, just two fifths off the track record. The middle fractions of the Belmont were among the fastest in the race's long history, and Birdstone was able to overtake Smarty Jones through a slow last quarter in 26.98 seconds.

June 6 - The surface was even quicker a day after the Belmont, with pace and final times averaging well over a second faster than par.

June 18 - Heavy rain arrived just before the eighth race, a 10-furlong allowance run on a saturated turf course. Vanity Affair slugged it out with Golden Commander through the length of the stretch, and it was 10 lengths back to the others, who were cautiously handled in the midst of the monsoon.

June 23 - A golden rail day, something of a rarity at Big Sandy.

June 26 - A drying-out track was sealed for the first three races and harrowed thereafter, and played exceptionally quick.

July 3 - It was a very glib track for the Suburban Handicap, and the first five finishers were separated by only a length. Such a tight margin among several horses is often the sign of a mediocre race.

July 4 - In his first start since winning the Vosburgh last fall, Ghostzapper returned for his 4-year-old debut in the seven-furlong Tom Fool Handicap and uncorked the performance of the meet to win under a hand ride in 1:20.42, two fifths off the track record.

July 11 - On an unbiased track playing about four-fifths fast, Medallist rocketed to the front in the Dwyer, widened his lead through supersonic fractions of 44.45 and 1:07.96 and was never seriously threatened by late-rallying The Cliff's Edge. If Medallist can handle an additional turn, he will be very tough to run down in the Jim Dandy Stakes on Aug. 8.

July 14 - The track was labeled good and it was harrowed throughout the day. It also was especially hospitable to early-speed types in the eight main-track events. Five winners led or dueled for the lead and three others were within a length of the lead at the first call.

July 15 - Another harrowed "good" track that was upgraded to wet-fast, and highly favorable to horses with early speed.

July 21- Main track played roughly a full second faster than par - three six-furlong races went in 1:09.84, 1:09.43, and 1:08.77.

July 25 - The surface dried out enough to be labeled fast for the getaway card, but still contained some moisture. Horses rallying on the outside around the turn dominated the seven dirt races. Potential dead-rail trip playbacks include: Fabulosity, Our Rose, Fiddlers Avenue, True Crimson, Mr. Determined, Gander, Hurricane Erica, and Lady Deanna.