09/05/2004 11:00PM

River Downs: Bellamy Road cruises

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CINCINNATI - The newly formed owner-trainer team of George Steinbrenner and Michael Dickinson won the Grade 3 Cradle Stakes for 2-year-olds at River Downs on Monday with Bellamy Road.

Ridden by Abel Castellano Jr., Bellamy Road opened a six-length lead in midstretch before coasting to a 2 3/4-length victory in the $200,000 Cradle. Diamond Isle finished second, a neck before Scipion, the even-money favorite in a field of eight. It was another 6 3/4 lengths back to fourth-place finisher Flyrock.

Bellamy Road, an easy winner of his only previous start, returned $6.40 as second choice.

Dickinson was at River despite having his stable star, Tapit, in the Pennsylvania Derby at the same hour. He said little should have been read into his decision to be in Cincinnati and not Philadelphia, other than Steinbrenner asked him to be present if possible. Dickinson said he asked the owners of Tapit, Winchell Farm, for permission to leave Tapit with his assistants and was given the go-ahead. Tapit finished ninth in the Pennsylvania Derby.

Bellamy Road made an unpressured lead in the Cradle after breaking well from post 2, setting fractions of 25.20 and 49.40 seconds while well in hand. Into the far turn, he maintained a relaxed lead while Edgar Prado started asking Scipion to pick up the pace. Down the stretch, Castellano was little more than a passenger, and Bellamy Road completed 1 1/16 miles in 1:45 over a fast track.

Ken McPeek, trainer of runner-up Diamond Isle, said he was "very pleased" with how his colt ran. "I've been here a lot of times before," said McPeek, who has two wins and two seconds in the Cradle. "and that was a very good race. They went pedestrian early but really finished up well."

Diamond Isle, the 2-1 second choice, completed a $2 exacta that paid $14.60.