10/25/2005 11:00PM

Turf off limits till Breeders' Cup card

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Charles Hayward, CEO of NYRA, wants to avoid damaging Belmont's soggy grass.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Belmont Park officials on Wednesday canceled turf racing until Saturday's Breeders' Cup card, hoping to nurse a sodden grass course through the biggest racing day of the season.

With about three more inches of rain falling here this week - that on top of the 18-plus inches the previous two weeks - the turf is soaked. Some European horses were allowed to gallop well out from the inner rail during training on Wednesday, but races for the rest of the week, including Friday's Knickerbocker Handicap, all were taken off the turf. The Knickerbocker has been rescheduled for Sunday.

"We're going to be running on the rail with a pristine turf course Saturday," said Charles Hayward, chief executive officer of the New York Racing Association during brief remarks before Wednesday's BC post-position draw.

John Passero, Belmont's track superintendent, walked the course Wednesday morning and described it as "okay."

"I put my fingers into it, walked on it to see how it felt," he said. "It's soft. If the Breeders' Cup were today, I would call the turf soft, but I wouldn't worry about it."

The weather Wednesday was sunny, windy, and in the mid-50's, which will help dry out the course. Skies were forecast to remain clear here through Saturday.

Plan B takes Lord of the Game to Keeneland

There were plenty of defections from Breeders' Cup races this week. Just not the one Lord of the Game needed to draw into the Classic.

Lord of the Game was the 15th horse in a field capped at 14, and needed only one horse above him to drop out sometime before entries were taken Wednesday, but it didn't happen. Trainer Tom Tomillo and owner Bill Slevin shipped Lord of the Game here from Chicago late last week, hoping luck would break their way, but Lord of the Game was to leave Wednesday afternoon on a van bound for Keeneland, where he races Saturday in the Fayette Handicap.

"It's too bad, because he worked so super here the other morning," Tomillo said. "I walked him today, and he's tearing things apart this morning."

Tomillo said he believes Lord of the Game has credentials equal to several other horses in the Classic, and that his horse just as easily could have been one of the seven selected for the Classic.

"There's five or six of them that are taking a shot just the same as we were," said Tomillo. "If they were all really good horses, it would be a different story."

Parlay available on Head2Head

Head-to-head wagers on the Breeders' Cup races - billed as Head2Head - were announced at the post-position draw, with a new twist added this season. Last year, an extra horse was added in some of the races, making them head-to-head-to-head; for 2005, a head-to-head parlay with a $2 minimum wager has been introduced. A winning $2 parlay in 2004 would have paid $190, according to Ken Kirchner of the Breeders' Cup.

Head-to-head matchups Saturday are as follows: Diamond Omi vs. Ex Caelis in the Juvenile Fillies; Sorcerer's Stone vs. Stevie Wonderboy vs. Stream Cat in the Juvenile; Film Maker vs. Ouija Board vs. Wonder Again in the Filly and Mare Turf; Lion Tamer vs. Silver Train in the Sprint; Artie Schiller vs. Gorella vs. Singletary in the Mile; Healthy Addiction vs. Sweet Symphony in the Distaff; Bago vs. Better Talk Now vs. Shakespeare in the Turf; and Borrego vs. Rock Hard Ten in the Classic.

Eight $1 pick threes, beginning with the Sport Page Handicap to open the card, will be offered, and two $1 pick fours cover races 3-6 and races 7-10. The $2 pick six, with a $3 million guaranteed pool, starts with race 5 and ends with race 10, covering the Filly and Mare Turf, Sprint, Mile, Distaff, Turf, and Classic.

Ritchey has no regrets about missing Classic

Tim Ritchey said he had no regrets about not being able to enter Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Wednesday. Ritchey and his ownership group, the Cash Is King Stable, announced two weeks ago that Afleet Alex's fractured left foreleg had not healed sufficiently to make the Classic.

Afleet Alex has remained in training, going to the track twice a day on some mornings either for two jogging sessions or a jog and a gallop. He has not had a timed breeze since Oct. 7, when he worked a bullet half-mile in 46.02 seconds.

"You have to do what's right by the horse, first and foremost, and this is the right thing for him," Ritchey said. "Hopefully, he will have one or two good races this year and have a good 4-year-old year. A lot of people would have retired him, but we're committed to run him, which I think is good for the horse, good for the owners, and good for racing."

Ritchey is hopeful of training Afleet Alex up to the Grade 1, $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 26. Ritchey said another race on his radar screen is the Grade 1 Malibu for 3-year-olds at Santa Anita on Dec. 26.

Ritchey said he would have another set of X-rays taken shortly on Afleet Alex's left foreleg before breezing him.

"The X-rays dictate what we do," Ritchey said. "Unless it's 100 percent healed we're just going to keep doing what were doing."

Migliore wishes he were riding

Jockey Richard Migliore just couldn't stay away. So while his doctors told him he shouldn't drive, Migliore copped the car keys and drove to Belmont on Wednesday morning to take in some of the atmosphere of the 22nd Breeders' Cup.

Migliore is forced to miss the Breeders' Cup because he sustained a broken left leg in a freak paddock accident on Oct. 20. Migliore was scheduled to ride Artie Schiller in the Mile and Nothing But Fun in the Distaff.

"I'm more bruised mentally than physically," Migliore said while standing on the apron with crutches. "It's not the worst physical pain I've ever felt, but the timing sucks."

Migliore said Artie Schiller would prefer "firm-to-hard" turf, but noted that with the rails coming down, a good part of the course will be fresh ground.

"The fact that it hasn't been run on in so long it won't be cut up," Migliore said. "It will have give in it, but it will be pristine, which will favor him because he doesn't like it when it's real cut up."

Migliore said he turned down an offer to do commentary for Satellite Radio on Saturday, but would do an interview for NBC. Then, he said, he would drive home to watch the races on television.

"I haven't been feeling great where I feel like I can take a whole day," Migliore said. "And I do have a lot of emotions because I want to be out there competing and I don't want that to be on public display."

Migliore may be out longer than the four to six weeks initially expected. The swelling in his leg has not subsided to the point where doctors could put a cast on the leg. Migliore is still in a splint.

* Bessemer Trust, the New York-based private wealth management company, has extended its marketing partnership with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Breeders' Cup for three years. Under the agreement, Bessemer Trust will continue as title sponsor of the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and as title sponsor of the Juvenile Division, a series of 14 graded stakes races held around the country leading to the Breeders' Cup.

* Horsemen are reminded that entries for Aqueduct's opening day card next Wednesday will be taken on Friday. There will be no entries taken on Saturday, Breeders' Cup Day.

- additional reporting by David Grening