06/07/2006 12:00AM

Wet weather looms on race day

Oh So Awesome (right), working in company with Tinseltown on Wednesday, will make his second U.S. start Saturday in the Belmont Stakes.

ELMONT, N.Y. - April showers may bring May flowers, certainly roses on the first Saturday of that month. But what's the deal with June? It has continued to rain here at Belmont Park, and that has left several trainers with runners in Saturday's casting a wary eye on The Weather Channel.

As expected, a field of 12 was entered on Wednesday morning for the $1 million Belmont, the final leg of the Triple Crown. But the rainy weather intensified just before the day's first race, and the long-range forecast worsened from two days ago. The Weather Channel is now predicting rain throughout the week, with the possibility of showers on Saturday and temperatures remaining in the mid-60's. Not exactly hot fun in the summertime.

The forecast was of concern to Tom Albertrani, who trains Deputy Glitters. Deputy Glitters has run twice in the mud and has performed poorly both times. He was last, beaten 32 1/4 lengths, in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park in October, then was sixth, beaten 15 lengths, in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April. Based on that evidence, Albertrani has seen enough. He said he would scratch Deputy Glitters if the track comes up muddy.

"As long as it doesn't rain, I think he'll have a great chance," Albertrani said of Deputy Glitters, who won the Tampa Bay Derby and was eighth of 20 in the Kentucky Derby.

"In the Champagne, he couldn't stand up in it, and when he ran in the Wood, it was the same thing. He just didn't handle it. We can wait until 45 minutes before the race to make a decision. We did that in the Wood. It was a last-minute decision. I guess we wanted to make sure for a second time. But we're not going to do it three times. If the track is good, he'll run, but if it's a washout, he won't run."

The longshot Platinum Couple, who was sixth in the Preakness, also might scratch from the race. He is entered as a main track-only runner for the Hill Prince Stakes on Friday. His trainer, Joe Lostritto, said that if the Hill Prince comes off the turf and the field is reduced to a handful of runners, Platinum Couple will run Friday and scratch from the Belmont.

Deputy Glitters drew post 7 and Platinum Couple the rail when post positions were selected on Wednesday morning. Unlike the convoluted systems at the Derby and Preakness, the Belmont draw was a traditional, blind draw.

"This should take about an hour and 27 minutes less than the Derby process," said Tom Durkin, who is Belmont's track announcer and was the emcee at the draw.

The likely favorite, Bluegrass Cat, drew post 9. He was second last time out in the Derby. Peter Pan Stakes winner Sunriver, the probable second choice, drew post 2. Both of those colts are trained by Todd Pletcher, who is the the only trainer with two entrants in the Belmont. They have different owners. Bluegrass Cat is owned by Bill Casner and Kenny Trout's WinStar Farm, and Sunriver is owned by Aaron and Marie Jones.

John Velazquez will be aboard Bluegrass Cat. Velazquez was going to ride Bluegrass Cat in the Derby, but missed the race after being injured in an accident at Keeneland. Ramon Dominguez took over for the Derby. Rafael Bejarano rode Sunriver to victory in the Peter Pan Stakes last time out and is back aboard.

Although Velazquez gets first choice in Pletcher's barn, Pletcher said it would not be prudent to read too much into the jockey assignments for this race. Pletcher said he had talked to Velazquez's agent, Angel Cordero Jr., before the Peter Pan about what he wanted to do in case Velazquez returned before the Belmont. Cordero replied that Velazquez would probably stick with Bluegrass Cat since that had been his intended mount in the Derby.

"It wasn't like it came down to a decision made five days before the race," said Pletcher. "And Bejarano and the Joneses have been lucky together. They won the Carter together with Forest Danger. It was an easy fit for everyone."

Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, and Eric Donovan, the linemaker at Belmont Park, both have Bluegrass Cat at 3-1 and Sunriver at 4-1.

The Belmont is the 11th race on a 13-race card which begins at noon Eastern time. It is the last of six stakes on the card, which includes the Acorn Stakes for 3-year-old fillies and Manhattan Handicap for turf runners. Scheduled post time for the Belmont is 6:33 p.m.

Double Galore, a recent maiden winner at Hollywood Park, and Platinum Couple will add blinkers for this race. Oh So Awesome, who was third in the Match the Hatch Stakes at Belmont on May 19, will add Lasix for the first time for the Belmont.

On Wednesday morning, Oh So Awesome completed his training for the Belmont by working a half-mile in 48.61 seconds on the Belmont Park training track, which was listed as good. Exercise rider Kelvin Pahal was aboard.

"He worked good," said Jimmy Jerkens, the trainer of Oh So Awesome. "Very good. He's in real good shape."

Oh So Awesome made his first six starts in France. The Match the Hatch was his first start in this country, and his first on dirt. Both Jerkens and Barry Irwin, the president of the Team Valor partnership which owns Oh So Awesome, said they are unsure how well Oh So Awesome will perform.

"I like the way he's doing, but I don't know if he's good enough," Jerkens said at his barn on Wednesday morning. "I thought his last race was decent enough that if he moves forward, he can get a check."

Irwin said Oh So Awesome was purchased privately after his lone victory, in March at Saint-Cloud near Paris, with the Belmont in mind. The majority partners, Irwin said, are Mike Jarvis and Guy Potter.

"We have no idea how he'll do," Irwin said. "He should get the trip. How good is he? Nobody knows."

Irwin said one of the attractions in acquiring Oh So Awesome was that he is by Awesome Again, whose offspring usually do better on dirt than turf. Awesome Again is the sire of Wilko, who won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his first start on dirt after racing exclusively on turf in Great Britain.

- additional reporting by David Grening