09/11/2002 11:00PM

Puzzlement tries one-turn Jerome


ELMONT, N.Y. - Puzzlement's three wins have come around two turns, but on Saturday he drops back to a one-turn mile in the $150,000 Jerome Handicap.

The Jerome, a Grade 2 for 3-year-olds, drew seven runners.

Puzzlement and Boston Common, who will vie for favoritism, are the co-highweights at 118 pounds.

Puzzlement is coming off a fifth-place effort in the Grade 1 Travers. His trainer, Allen Jerkens, said Puzzlement bled "a couple of drops" in the 1 1/4-mile Travers and will run race with Lasix for the first time in the Jerome.

In his lone start at Belmont, Puzzlement finished a good second to Sunday Break in the 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan around one turn. The Peter Pan was meant to be a prep for the Belmont Stakes, but Puzzlement came up with a foot bruise a couple days before the race and was scratched.

Jerkens, who won the Jerome with Step Nicely in 1973 and again four years ago with Limit Out, said the mile shouldn't pose a problem for Puzzlement.

"A mile around one turn should be long enough for him," Jerkens said.

Jean-Luc Samyn rides Puzzlement, a closer, who drew post 3.

Boston Common, game in defeat as the runner-up in both the Amsterdam and King's Bishop, doesn't figure to receive the pace pressure he had in those races. The question is whether Boston Common, a Boston Harbor gelding trained by Michael Pino, can get the distance. This year, Boston Common's three losses in races at a mile or longer came in two-turn events.

Jorge Chavez rides Boston Common, the likely pacesetter from post 7.

No Parole is a horse for the course, with three wins from four starts at Belmont. In his last race, No Parole finished third in the Albany after his rider, Shaun Bridgmohan, appeared to lose hold of the reins briefly in the stretch.

"I know he is a New York-bred, but he loves Belmont," No Parole's trainer, Joe Aquilino, said. "He won three races here and loves the big, wide turns."

Aquilino has made a rider switch to John Velazquez.

Vinemeister, a stakes winner as a 2-year-old at The Meadowlands, was an easy winner of an optional claimer at Monmouth last month. Vinemeister's sire, Williamstown, holds the track record for a mile at Belmont.

"He's a nice colt and showed some ability as a 2-year-old," said Alan Seewald, Vinemeister's trainer. "He's had some bad luck this year."

Essayons, a big winner in the slop here in June, and Dial a Hero, a winner of a first-level allowance in the slop last month, are also entered. Rum Splasher completes the field.

- additional reporting by David Grening

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