05/20/2007 11:00PM

Twilight Meteor prepping for Queen's Plate


ELMONT, N.Y. - Two overnight stakes and a high-quality allowance highlight Wednesday's nine-race card at Belmont Park.

The Straight Deal, for 3-year-old males at one mile on turf, and the Yank's Music, for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on dirt, are both competitive events worth $65,000 apiece. Earlier on the card, talented sprinters Rondo and Abraaj meet in a $47,000 second-level allowance at six furlongs.

The Straight Deal drew a solid nine-horse field, including stakes winners Twilight Meteor and Strike a Deal as well as the talented New York-bred Admiral Bird. Summer Doldrums, a dirt stakes winner, makes his turf debut in this spot.

Twilight Meteor, trained by Todd Pletcher, won the Bourbon Stakes last fall at Keeneland, a race moved from the turf to the Polytrack. He began his 3-year-old campaign with a solid off-the-pace score in the Hallandale Beach Handicap on turf at Gulfstream, defeating, among others, Sedgefield, who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.

Since Twilight Meteor is Canadian-bred, he is eligible for the Queen's Plate, to be run at Woodbine on June 24. Pletcher is hoping to use this as a prep for that.

Admiral Bird finished ahead of Twilight Meteor in 2 of 3 meetings last fall, including a nose victory over that foe in a grass allowance at Keeneland. Though Admiral Bird had two wins and a nose loss from four starts at 2, his connections opted to geld him during the winter. This will be his first start since the procedure.

Trainer Christophe Clement said that Admiral Bird was a bit of a heavy horse who was somewhat headstrong. "A little bit," Clement said, with a look that indicated little was an understatement. "He's a bit kinder now."

Clement views the mile as a perfect distance for his new gelding to make his comeback race.

"The mile is perfect because he'll have enough pace to settle [behind]," Clement said.

Strike a Deal, trained by Alan Goldberg, beat 13 rivals winning the Laurel Futurity last November. Prior to that, the late-running colt was compromised by a snail-like pace when finishing second behind Pickapocket in the Pilgrim at Belmont.

Altesse, a daughter of A.P. Indy, looks like the one to beat in the Yank's Music for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on dirt. Altesse looked good winning a second-level allowance race by 2 3/4 lengths at Aqueduct on April 13, her first start of the year.

"She's disappointed me a little bit that she hasn't turned into a top-class filly so far," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "I'm just hoping maybe she's on the right track now. She's trained good, I think she'll run good."

Sugar Swirl, trained by Bobby Frankel, began her 4-year-old campaign with a third-level allowance win going one mile at Gulfstream. She had trouble when fourth in the Grade 3 Sabin at Gulfstream in February before coming up three-quarters of a length short in an allowance race at Churchill Downs earlier this month.

Sugar Swirl could pan out as the main speed from post 6 under Garrett Gomez.

In the third race, Rondo will try to keep Godolphin's hot start at the meet going, when he squares off against Shadwell Stable's Abraaj in a second-level allowance. Rondo is coming off a first-level allowance win at Gulfstream Park on April 18, while Abraaj cuts back to six furlongs after losing at seven last out.