10/05/2008 12:00AM

Visionaire looks to close in deep Jerome


ELMONT, N.Y. - Six horses have combined to win the 10 main-track Grade 1 races restricted to 3-year-olds run in the United States thus far this year. Three of those six will meet in Sunday's Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park.

Visionaire, the King's Bishop winner, and Tale of Ekati, the Wood Memorial winner, had always been targeting the Jerome. On Friday, Belmont Stakes winner Da' Tara joined the fray after trainer Nick Zito scratched him out of Friday night's Grade 2, $350,000 Meadowlands Cup because he felt there was too much other early speed. Also, running in the Jerome affords Da' Tara the opportunity to run against just 3-year-olds one more time, Zito said.

Still, the Jerome is no easy spot. While Da' Tara could be the main speed, there are some quality one-turn horses that will be attempting to chase him down. Visionaire, trained by Michael Matz, is 4 for 5 around one turn, including a powerful last-to-first victory in the King's Bishop at Saratoga. That followed a strong third-level allowance win a month earlier at the Spa. Both wins have come since Matz added blinkers to Visionaire's equipment.

"I don't know how much that really helps him, to be quite honest with you," Matz said by phone from Keeneland on Friday. "We tried it to see if we could get him to focus a bit more. He is what he is: he's a real nice horse who tries as hard as he can. The big problem is if there's enough speed."

Visionaire is trying to use this race as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29.

That also is the objective of Harlem Rocker, who, like Visionaire, is 2 for 2 in one-turn mile races. Harlem Rocker's best race came in the Grade 3 Withers, a one-turn mile at Aqueduct, where he was able to run down a loose-on-the-lead J Be K.

Harlem Rocker is coming out of a fourth-place finish in the Travers, where trainer Todd Pletcher felt jockey Eibar Coa was forced to make a premature and wide move.

Pletcher also will run Z Humor, formerly trained by Bill Mott, in the Jerome. Z Humor, winless in six starts this year, finished third in last year's Champagne, a one-turn mile race.

Tale of Ekati is 2 for 2 in one-turn races at Belmont, including a victory in the Grade 2 Futurity last fall. He is nicely drawn on the outside of this seven-horse field under Cornelio Velasquez.

"He's coming up to this race perfect," said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. "We discussed with Edgar [Prado] what he would think his best distance would be, and he said his best distance would be a mile. Even though Edgar's not going to be on him - Cornelio is going to be riding him - we hope Edgar's right."

Prado is at Keeneland on Sunday.

You and I Forever, who was beaten a neck by Mambo in Seattle in the Henry Walton Stakes at Saratoga, completes the field.