09/17/2002 12:00AM

True Direction meets elders


ELMONT, N.Y. - The presence of promising 3-year-olds True Direction and Saint Marden in separate allowance races highlight an extremely strong Thursday card at Belmont Park that features five allowance races and overflow fields in four maiden events.

True Direction, who won three straight races in the spring, including the Hirsch Jacobs Stakes at Pimlico on Preakness Day, will meet older horses for the first time when he returns in a third-level allowance heat at six furlongs.

True Direction has not run since finishing third behind Gygistar and Draw Play in the Riva Ridge on Belmont Stakes Day. As trainer Carlos Morales was preparing him for the Carry Back Stakes at Calder in July, True Direction injured a splint bone.

Morales had the bone freeze-fired, which helps to increase blood circulation and bone density. The horse returned to serious training in early August and fired a bullet five-furlong workout in 59.80 seconds over Belmont's training track on Sept. 5. Jerry Bailey rides from post 5.

"I think I have a really good horse, he always tries, and I think he's ready to go," Morales said from Keeneland, where he is attending the yearling sales.

Mukaabed, a 5-year-old son of Phone Trick, could be the one to catch under Javier Castellano. Mukaabed won a second-level allowance race going gate to wire at Monmouth Park on June 12 before finishing fourth in a five-horse field at this level on July 20. The only negative is that he shows only two workouts since that race.

Mile rallied from last to win a Delaware Park allowance race when running with blinkers for the first time. He too has some speed and may have to use it breaking from the rail.

In race 5, Saint Marden drops back into a second-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles after finishing a well-beaten eighth in the Grade 1 Travers. Jockey Mike Smith told trainer Michael Matz that Saint Marden did not care for the wet track on Travers Day

"Mike said every time he let his head go, his hind end kept going out from underneath him," said Matz. "I thought he would come back looking like a mess behind, but he wasn't so bad at all."

Saint Marden has worked well twice at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland and will be reunited with Bailey, who was aboard for an allowance win at Saratoga.

The race also includes Nokoma, who has yet to regain the form he showed last fall winning his maiden here and running second in the Remsen.

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