07/10/2002 11:00PM

Startac gets a fresh start

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ELMONT, N.Y. - The connections of Startac will find out right away if a change of scenery brings about a change of fortune when their Grade 1-winning colt heads a field of nine entered in Saturday's $150,000 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont Park.

Based on the West Coast for most of his career, Startac was trained by Simon Bray, who guided him to 4 wins from 9 starts, including a win in the Grade 1 Secretariat last August. Following that race, the horse was stunningly taken from Bray and given to Laura de Seroux, who ran Startac five times without success.

Last month the proprietors of Allen Paulson's Living Trust felt there were more opportunities for Startac on the East Coast so they sent him to Bill Mott. In a short time, Startac has impressed his new barn, for whom he has worked twice on the turf.

"He seems like he's doing awfully good,'' said Kenny McCarthy, Mott's Belmont-based assistant. "So far, he hasn't put a foot the wrong way.''

McCarthy mentioned that Startac had to deal with foot problems out West. "Right now, they look really good to us,'' McCarthy said. "It's a little easier on their feet on this coast.''

The competition may also be a little easier on this coast. Instead of running against the likes of Ladies Din, No Slip, and Skipping, Startac will face group that has more modest accomplishments.

Moon Solitaire is coming off a lifetime-best performance winning the Grade 2 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 16 at Woodbine. A 5-year-old Irish-bred son of Night Shift, Moon Solitaire may have a tactical edge as he can run on or just off the pace. He also gets John Velazquez, who has won the last three stakes run at Belmont, and is a two-time Bowling Green winner.

As a 3-year-old, Proud Man won a trio of Grade 3 events, including the Hill Prince at nine furlongs over firm Belmont turf. Injuries have limited him to only four starts since then, and all four have been races run on less than firm ground.

Bobby Frankel shipped in the late-running Staging Post from California, where most recently he finished second in the Grade 1 San Juan Capistrano on April 21.

Eltawaasul and Whitmore's Conn finished one-two in a June 21 allowance race, and are long-distance runners with chances to get a piece. Eltawaasul won last September's Manila Stakes at The Meadowlands while Whitmore's Conn has finished third in a pair of Grade 3 events. Gritty Sandie is 0 for 12 since winning back-to-back marathon allowance races in the summer of 2000. He will be coupled with Illusionary.

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