09/12/2007 11:00PM

Pommes Frites tough in Noble Damsel on cutback

EmailNEW YORK - Belmont Park is a force when it comes to weekend stakes action, particularly this time of year. And on Saturday, it hosts the Grade 1 Gazelle Handicap, as well as the Futurity, Matron, and Noble Damsel. But there is also be something new on the schedule, as Presque Isle Downs presents the $400,000 Presque Isle Masters, as well as two lucrative supporting stakes. Elsewhere, Philadelphia Park offers the $200,000 Larry R. Riviello President's Cup.

Noble Damsel

After champion Wait a While blew by her in the stretch of the Ballston Spa Handicap last out, Pommes Frites packed it in and finished a tired fourth. But, Pommes Frites will be cutting back from the 1 1/16 miles of the Ballston Spa to a flat mile Saturday - a move that has led to strong performances from her in the past, and makes her a solid play.

In the 12 lines that appear in her current past performances, Pommes Frites made this particular cutback in distance once this year and three times last year. When she did it this year, she won an overnight stakes at Monmouth as expected. When she did it last year, she was nailed by Gorella in the Just a Game Handicap, was nailed by Karen's Caper in this race, and was a narrowly beaten third behind Price Tag in the Matriarch. No one else in this spot is in the same league as Gorella, Karen's Caper, and Price Tag. Moreover, Pommes Frites trips out well Saturday. She has the speed to make the top if she wants, or she could be just as effective tracking Bayou's Lassie if the latter is determined to go to the front early.

Larry R. Riviello President's Cup

I liked Gun Salute last time out in Saratoga's Bernard Baruch Handicap. And even though he didn't beat a horse, if I could like Gun Salute in a race like the Baruch, I can certainly go back to him in this spot. Especially since there were reasons why he didn't run well most recently, and he will offer betting value.

Gun Salute drew poorly in the Baruch, having to break from the extreme outside post. So he was used early in an effort to save a bit of ground around the first turn. The problem was, the pace wound up being quite quick, so it was understandable that Gun Salute backed off late on the far turn. Gun Salute also might have negatively reacted from a big effort three weeks earlier off a long layoff, an effort that would make him tough to handle in this spot. In that outing, he was a close third behind Shakespeare, who will take a lot of beating in Sunday's Woodbine Mile, and Art Master, who was coming off a strong score in the Poker Handicap.

Presque Isle Masters

Given the intense speed Shaggy Mane showed when she romped in the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint early this year, I don't think any other horse in this race can go early with her. But other speed horses might prompt Shaggy Mane into going too fast early for her own good. You might think this is a good setup for a closer. But a review of recent result charts on Presque Isle Downs's Tapeta surface suggests that horses who stalk from close range, and not deep closers, succeed most. With that in mind, I'm going with Miss Macy Sue.

Miss Macy Sue was the beaten favorite most recently in Saratoga's Honorable Miss Handicap, but she was put in a bad position when she was taken back off a slow opening quarter-mile. Before that she was dominant, winning four straight sprint stakes and earning a series of Beyer Figures that are competitive with any other horse's in this race.