05/07/2003 11:00PM

September Secret travels far in search of sprints


ELMONT, N.Y. - To the best of his recollection, California-based trainer Michael Machowsky has started only two horses at Belmont Park. He is still in search of his first victory. Machowsky hopes that initial win will come Sunday in the Grade 2, $150,000 Genuine Risk Stakes for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

September Secret, a daughter of Our Emblem, has won 4 of 6 starts, including the Grade 3 Railbird Stakes last May. In her last start, September Secret won a third-level allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths last month at Keeneland, earning a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 104.

That was her first race since she finished third in the Grade 2 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita in February, a race from which she emerged with an injury.

"She broke bad out of the one hole and tore both quarters in one foot," Machowsky said. "Pat [Valenzuela] kind of rushed her up. They went 21-and-one [seconds] the first quarter and she went faster than that."

After she recovered from that injury, Machowsky said he shipped September Secret out of Southern California because there weren't as many stakes opportunities for sprinting fillies out there. He had September Secret entered in the Madison Stakes at Keeneland on April 9, but scratched when the track came up wet. That's why he went in the allowance race.

Machowsky has named Eibar Coa to ride September Secret, who gets in with 116 pounds. She is expected to face four rivals, including Grade 1 winners Carson Hollow (122) and Shine Again (119), as well as Harmony Lodge (116), A New Twist (115), and possibly Literary Light (112).

Zito eyes Acorn, Met Mile

Trainer Nick Zito hopes Najran's eye-popping victory in Wednesday's Westchester Handicap was just the start of a big Belmont spring/summer meeting.

Najran broke Belmont's track record for one mile and equaled Dr. Fager's North American record when he won the Westchester by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:32.24. Zito said Najran came out of the race in good order, was to ship to Saratoga on Friday, and may come back for the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on May 26.

"We put his feet in ice [Wednesday] night," said Zito, who won his second race of the meet Thursday with Captain Fantastic ($4.40). "They say when you run so fast your feet get hot. He was on the top of his game. Those works were great."

Zito said the Met Mile "is a good possibility. We've got to keep him from bouncing. The way he ran [Wednesday] was great. We will see, it's a long year. One of the goals we've got is the Forego," a Grade 1, seven-furlong race run Aug. 31 at Saratoga.

Meanwhile, Zito said Bird Town came out of her stakes record-setting performance in last Friday's Kentucky Oaks in good fashion and will be pointed to the Grade 1 Acorn here on June 6. Bird Town is already at Saratoga.

Contessa not tempted by Preakness

Even as the field for the Preakness Stakes dwindles, trainer Gary Contessa said he is not tempted to change his mind and run Grey Comet in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Instead, Contessa will stick to his plan and point Grey Comet to the $250,000 Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Stakes on June 8. Should he win that race, Grey Comet would earn his connections a $100,000 bonus.

Grey Comet already has won last year's White Way Stakes and last month's Park Avenue.

Contessa had hinted that if Grey Comet ran well in the Park Avenue and if the Kentucky Derby results were unimpressive, he would run him back in the Preakness. But Grey Comet struggled in the Park Avenue, bearing out badly down the backside before recovering to win. Plus, Contessa was impressed with Funny Cide's Derby triumph.

"Before his last race he had a foot bruise and that may have made him drift out," Contessa said. "We tried glue-on [shoes] and it took a quarter mile to three-eighths of mile before he felt comfortable. I want to make sure he has got plenty of time and then maybe I will come back in 20 days for the Mike Lee."

Region of Merit back with Clement

Region of Merit, the Tampa Bay Derby winner, has rejoined Christophe Clement's stable at Belmont Park and will be pointed to the Peter Pan Stakes on May 24. Following his fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, Region of Merit was sent to Calumet Farm for a three-week freshening.

"He has put on some weight, he looks good, he's sound," Clement said as Region of Merit galloped through the Belmont Park stretch.

* Jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. was released from North Shore Hospital Thursday afternoon, one day after he was thrown from his mount, Shoo Brush, leaving the gate in Wednesday's fourth race. Arroyo was kicked on the side of the neck, and X-rays were negative. Arroyo took off his one mount on Thursday. Agent Jon Kolb was hopeful Arroyo would return to action on Friday.

* Gentle Nudge, a 3-year-old half-brother to Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi, finished fifth in his debut Thursday. A son of Best Pal, Gentle Nudge was beaten 15 lengths by Add it Up.

* John Velazquez won three races on Thursday's card. He finished second with his only other mount.