10/02/2006 11:00PM

Two with late kick and blue blood


LAS VEGAS - If pace makes the race, then Saturday's 68th running of the Grade 1 Beldame could come down to two classy fillies - Balletto and Round Pond - who may get a dream setup. While the one-turn, 1 1/8-mile race at Belmont Park often favors speed, this year's Beldame is expected to feature at least four fillies who have shown they want the lead.

That group is topped by Fleet Indian, a daughter of Indian Charlie. Fleet Indian has won all five of her starts since she was purchased privately by Paul Saylor and turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher. But she will not be on the lead Saturday. That position will be firmly taken by the lightning-quick Take D'Tour, a daughter of Tour d'Or whose affinity for Belmont is well-documented.

The 3-year-old Teammate and Fleet Indian's stablemate Pool Land will also be near the front.

Balletto, winner of the 2004 Frizette Stakes and second in the Matron Stakes, was the second-best 2-year-old filly in 2004 when she finished second to champion Sweet Catomine in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Balletto was sent to Dubai after her juvenile season and did not race at age 3, when she was officially retired. But she was put back into training this year at 4 and has raced well, considering her strong late kick was compromised by slow fractions when Fleet Indian won the Personal Ensign, and she also was second to lone speed Take D'Tour in the Shuvee Handicap.

By 1994 2-year-old juvenile champion Timber Country, a son of Woodman who won the Preakness Stakes and finished a fast-closing third in the Kentucky Derby, Balletto descends from the exceptional blue hen Courtly Dee. Balletto is out of Destiny Dance, a daughter of Nijinsky II who won the Sheepshead Bay Handicap. Her second dam Althea, by Alydar, was the 1983 2-year-old filly champion who defeated males in the Arkansas Derby. In addition to Destiny Dance, Althea produced three other stakes winners: Japanese champion Yamanin Paradise, Aurora, and Alyssum. Balletto's third dam, Courtly Dee, foaled eight stakes winners (and one stakes-placed runner) and was 1983 Broodmare of the Year.

Round Pond, one of last year's best 3-year-old fillies before she was sidelined in late spring, returned this year off a long layoff to win the Azeri BC Stakes over the tough Happy Ticket. Away for more than five months, Round Pond finished second by a head in the Molly Pitcher BC, obviously needing that race. Having tactical speed, Round Pond can sit behind the pacesetters and get first jump on Balletto.

By Awesome Again, Round Pond also comes from a female family of undisputed quality. Her dam, Gift of Dance, by Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino, is a half-sister to Pennekamp, a French champion at 2 and champion European miler at 3; Black Minnaloushe, a son of Storm Cat who was a champion 3-year-old colt in Ireland; and Nasr el Arab, a winner of multiple Grade 1 stakes, including the Charles H. Strub Stakes. Round Pond's third dam, Carvinia, is a half-sister to Carvin II, a top-class French-bred stakes winner who was second to Diatome in the 1965 Washington D.C. International Stakes, finishing ahead of Roman Brother, who was co-Horse of the Year with undefeated juvenile filly champion Moccasin.

Good performances by Balletto and Round Pond would send them to the BC Distaff, where they would meet Pine Island, the pro-tem 3-year-old filly divisional leader.

Arc winner has ties to Dahlia

Rail Link, the 3-year-old colt who stunned the racing world with an upset victory in last Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, has a pedigree to rival any grass horse.

A winner of 5 of 7 starts, Rail Link is by Dansili - a full brother to Intercontinental, Banks Hill, Cacique and half-brother to Heat Haze - out of the Theatrical mare Docklands. His second dam is by outstanding racehorse and influential sire Riverman, and his third dam, Golden Alibi, (by Empery), is a three-quarter sister to 1974 grass champion Dahlia, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.

The Arc, which included last year's winner, Hurricane Run, and Japanese superstar Deep Impact, was Rail Link's fifth consecutive victory. Earlier he won the listed Prix Gouvernant, Group 3 Prix du Lys, Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris, and Group 2 Prix Niel, and is clearly an example of a late-blooming 3-year-old who will not reach his peak until age 4.