05/09/2008 12:00AM

Volponi may be Strike a Deal's tightener


ELMONT, N.Y. - Strike a Deal had both a fruitful and frustrating 3-year-old campaign. He won just once from five starts, but came within a nose and a head from capturing two graded stakes.

"You're telling me," trainer Alan Goldberg said. "He's a half a length away from [making] another $600,000 or $700,000. I hope he comes back like he was. He was pretty good last year."

Strike a Deal is scheduled to make his 4-year-old debut Sunday at Belmont in the $75,000 Volponi Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf course. A field of 10 was entered for the Volponi, one of five turf races scheduled on a 10-race card that includes the $100,000 Kingston for New York-breds.

Strike a Deal, a son of Smart Strike, has not run since finishing sixth in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap here last September. Though it was only his fifth start of the year, Strike a Deal was turned out after that race. Goldberg, who is based at the Colts Neck Stables training center in New Jersey, had to ship Strike a Deal to all of his races and felt his horse needed the time to recover.

Strike a Deal returned to training at Colts Neck in mid-February and has been breezing steadily for weeks. Strike a Deal won the one-mile Straight Deal Stakes going a mile here last May for his only win of the year. He beat subsequent stakes winners Summer Doldrums and Twilight Meteor in that heat.

"Basically I'm just getting him started," Goldberg said. "I might have trained him a little harder last year than this year. I had a bunch of older horses come back and run [bad]."

Goldberg is hoping to use this race as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Manhattan at 1 1/4 miles here on Belmont Stakes Day, June 7.

Summer Doldrums, who beat Strike a Deal by a head in the Colonial Turf Cup, makes his second start off a layoff for trainer Rick Violette. He finished ninth, beaten only four lengths, in an allowance race last month at Keeneland.

"He ran like a horse that needed a race," Violette said. "From the three-eighths pole to the eighth pole it looked like he was going to get something then he flattened out."

Other contenders in the field include Ruff and Ready, Parading, Interpatation, and Rathor. The 10-year-old Evening Attire is entered in this field but is 0 for 4 on turf.

Rite Moment may try Shuvee

After running her six times in the first four months of the year, trainer Gary Contessa would like to give Rite Moment a freshening. But the multiple-stakes-winning filly appears to want no part of it, and may very well run in next Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Shuvee Handicap.

"She's still firing bullets, she's really happy training, she's really doing well, and she hasn't dropped weight," Contessa said. "The Shuvee seems like it's coming up right. We're 50-50 leaning on the run side."

Rite Moment, a daughter of Vicar, is coming off three consecutive stakes victories, including the Grade 2 Distaff and Grade 2 Bed o' Roses Handicap, both at Aqueduct.

On May 4, Rite Moment breezed a bullet half-mile in 48.01 seconds at Aqueduct.

Dream Rush points to Vagrancy

Dream Rush, a finalist for champion female sprinter in 2007, could make her 4-year-old debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs here on May 25, trainer Rick Violette said.

Dream Rush, who won the Grade 1 Prioress and Grade 1 Test last summer, was being pointed to the Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct in March, before sustaining a hind leg injury. She resumed training in April at Palm Meadows and worked five furlongs in 1:00.62 at Aqueduct on May 4.

"We've got a good shot to make the Vagrancy," Violette said. "She's doing terrific. I need a couple of more breezes. If we get that and the weather cooperates we should make it."

Violette said while he couldn't breeze Dream Rush for five weeks, she didn't miss too much training.

"She missed about 10 days, we didn't want to do something that was going to set us back,'' Violette said.

* Commentator, prepping for a start in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap here on May 26, worked four furlongs in 48.75 seconds Friday over the Saratoga training track.

* Megalodon, a 3-year-old gelding owned by former Duke basketball star Bobby Hurley, sustained a broken left ankle nearing the stretch of Friday's second race and had to be euthanized. Jockey Rajiv Maragh went to North Shore Hospital for X-rays on his left hand, which were negative. He was expected to ride Saturday.