05/24/2006 11:00PM

Velazquez recovering well


ELMONT, N.Y. - Jockey John Velazquez, who suffered a fractured shoulder blade and a cracked rib in a spill at Keeneland on April 20, may be back in time to ride in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

On Wednesday, Velazquez got on horses for the first time since the accident and worked the unraced 3-year-old Spring at Last five furlongs in 1:00.82 from the gate for trainer Todd Pletcher. Velazquez, winner of the Eclipse Award as the nation's leading rider the last two years, said he could return to the saddle the week of the Belmont.

"It's realistic, but I'm not going to make any promises," Velazquez said Thursday. "I'm doing really good. I hope to continue to do good. I will say this: I will not ride unless I think I can do it."

Velazquez visited his doctor Thursday morning and was told he was in no danger of doing any further damage to his arm and shoulder. Initially, Velazquez was expected to be out until mid-July.

"This is definitely good news, better than I thought," Velazquez said. "It's surprised me the way I've been feeling the last week and a half. I really turned the corner, and I'm moving my arm really good. All I have to do now is put the time and effort to get fit and get my arm strong again."

Velazquez said that even if he returns the week of the Belmont Stakes, he wouldn't be fit enough to ride an entire card. If he is able to make it back for the Belmont, Velazquez will have his choice between Bluegrass Cat and Sunriver, both trained by Pletcher.

Velazquez had been the regular rider of both before being injured. Ramon Dominguez rode Bluegrass Cat to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Rafael Bejarano rode Sunriver to victory in the Grade 2 Peter Pan.

Teammate working toward Acorn

Teammate, sidelined since early April because of a bruised foot, is working steadily again in hopes of making it to the Grade 1 Acorn on June 10. On Tuesday, Teammate worked four furlongs in 48.64 seconds. On May 27, she breezed three furlongs in 37.89.

Trainer Allen Jerkens said he has been pleased with Teammate's training and said if she continues working well, she will make the Acorn.

"She doesn't look like she's gotten any fatter or anything. She's fit," Jerkens said. "If she doesn't work good, she's not running."

Teammate, who won the Bonnie Miss by six lengths in March, was working toward a start in the Comely on April 15 when she suffered a bruised foot. Jerkens said that "it took a long time to come around," adding that Teammate missed three weeks of training.

The return of Teammate would be a welcome sight for a 3-year-old filly division lacking a leader.

"Some people say there's nothing in there," Jerkens said. "There's more tough ones than I've seen in a long time."

Tiger may run in True North

Tiger, impressive winner of the Bold Ruler Handicap on May 13, will not be pointed to the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 15 as originally planned. He may, however, make his next start in the $200,000 True North Breeders' Cup Handicap here on June 10.

"He's 50-50 for the True North," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens.

Jerkens said he and owners Susan and John Moore ruled out the Calder race because they don't believe the Calder track suits Tiger.

"He really likes a fast track and it certainly isn't that," Jerkens said. "Down there, the best horses go [six furlongs] in 1:10-and-three running hard all the way."

Jerkens also said that Artie Schiller, third in the Dixie at Pimlico, would not be pointed to the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on June 10 and may not run until Saratoga.

Corinthian on work tab

The talented 3-year-old Corinthian breezed three furlongs in 38.05 seconds over the Belmont training track Thursday morning, his first breeze since suffering a minor fracture to his left ankle in late March.

Corinthian finished first in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on March 4, but was disqualified and placed third for coming out on First Samurai and Flashy Bull in the stretch. He was injured shortly after shipping to New York from Florida.

Jimmy Jerkens said that he is hopeful of getting Corinthian to the races before the end of the Belmont meet, which ends July 22. Jerkens said he had mixed emotions about not being able to run Corinthian in any of the Triple Crown races.

"Who knows how he would have handled it the way he was acting in Florida," Jerkens said, referring to Corinthian's erratic behavior. "You can only get away with that stuff for so long. I hope he outgrows some of that nonsense."

Many winners in pick six

Though there was only one winning favorite in the sequence, the pick six was finally hit on Thursday, returning $40,877. There were 17 winning tickets. The consolation payout (5 of 6) returned $248.50. There were 622 consolation tickets.

There was a two-day carryover of $230,996, and an additional $824,798 was wagered into the pool Thursday.

The winning sequence of 4-9-4-1-8-6 included Sugar Shake ($7.10), La Coruna ($20), Safari Queen ($4.40), Behind the Screen ($10.60), Ashkal Way ($11.20), and Kip Kelly ($8.70).