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Wolfson invades Belmont for stakes

Handicappers have learned over the years to pay close attention when Florida-based trainer Marty Wolfson ships horses in to New York for graded stakes. Over the last 18 years - and not including You and I Forever in Monday's Metropolitan Handicap - Wolfson has won eight graded stakes in New York from just 41 starters.

This weekend, Wolfson will bring a mini-army of six to New York to compete in five of the eight stakes to be run Friday and Saturday.

On Friday, Wolfson will send out Stones River in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Handicap. On Saturday, he'll run Jet Propulsion in the Grade 1 Manhattan, Dances With Ashley in the Grade 1 Acorn, Speak Easy Gal and Cherokee Queen in the Grade 1 Just a Game, and Thank You Phillipe in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens.

Stones River, a half-brother to the Grade 1 winner Unbridled Belle, drew post 6 of 8 for the Brooklyn, which will be run at 1 1/2 miles and goes as the last of 10 on Friday.

Stones River is winless in three starts for Wolfson, but he did finish third in a high-class third-level allowance race at Gulfstream on March 3.

"A mile and a half is going to suit him," Wolfson said.

Wolfson is particularly high on Dances With Ashley, who is 4 for 5 in her career with wins on turf and dirt at Calder, on a synthetic surface at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co., and on dirt at Tampa in the Sophomore Fillies Stakes. Her only loss came in the Grade 3 Old Hat, which was run over a sloppy track.

"It's the way she does it," Wolfson said. "She's got a beautiful stride, she's push-button. That day at Tampa, she came from well out of it. I really like this filly."

John Velazquez will ride Dances With Ashley. Others pointing to the Acorn include Amen Hallelujah, Buckleupbuttercup, Champagne d'Oro, Indian Burn, Much Rejoicing, Quiet Temper, Streaker, and Tanda.

In the Grade 1 Manhattan, Jet Propulsion will attempt 1 1/4 miles for the first time in his 49-race career. Wolfson claimed the horse for $50,000 last December as 6-year-old and has run him four times between a mile and nine furlongs.

"I claimed him for running a distance," Wolfson said.

Jet Propulsion set the pace and lost a three-length lead in the stretch of the Mervin Muniz Jr. Handicap at New Orleans.

"You can't have a front-runner on the Fair Grounds turf," Wolfson said. "He opened up six lengths and he's cruising, but it doesn't matter there, they always close on the outside of that turf."

Wolfson said Jet Propulsion's eighth-place finish in the Miami Mile at Calder on April 25 is a throw-out because "they held his head at the gate and he broke last."

Speak Easy Gal, a front-runner, has gone 4 for 4 since Wolfson and Farnsworth Stables purchased her privately from Gary Contessa. She is a front-runner, while Cherokee Queen, also owned by Farnsworth Stables, comes from well off the pace.

Thank You Phillipe won the statebred stakes at Tampa in his last start. Last fall, he finished a well-beaten second to Buddy's Saint in the Grade 2 Remsen.

Gio Ponti ready for Manhattan

After watching Gio Ponti work a strong five furlongs over the Belmont turf course on Sunday, trainer Christophe Clement confirmed the dual Eclipse Award winner for Saturday's Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap at 1 1/4 miles on turf.

Gio Ponti, working in company with Winchester, went five furlongs in 59.67 seconds. Winchester was given a time of 1:00.05

It was Gio Ponti's first published work since May 9. On May 16, he worked too slow to get his time published. He then missed a scheduled breeze on May 23 because he had coughed a couple of times beforehand. But Clement was quite pleased with the way Gio Ponti breezed Sunday.

"The work today was a very nice work, easy, on the bridle," Clement said. "My only concern would be his fitness. He's probably good enough to overcome that."

Gio Ponti, who won last year's Manhattan as well as three other Grade 1 races and earned the titles of champion turf and older male, has not run since finishing fourth in the Dubai World Cup in March.

Clement said Winchester may be entered in the Manhattan but would only run if the course came up with some give in the ground. Rain was in the forecast for Friday.

Others pointing to the Manhattan include Expansion, Grand Couturier, Interpatation, Just as Well, Pinckney Hill, Marsh Side, Strike a Deal, and Take the Points.

Unrivaled Belle sharp in Phipps drill

One of the most visually impressive workouts turned in Sunday was by Unrivaled Belle, who zipped five furlongs in 59.71 seconds. She started six lengths behind a stablemate and finished a couple in front.

Unrivaled Belle, who defeated Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the La Troienne on April 30, is pointing to the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps here June 12.

Trainer Bill Mott called the work "smooth as silk."

"We planned on her going a little bit fast," Mott said. "Last week, we thought she went a little bit slow, so we thought we'd put a fast work in her. She's a filly capable of doing that. We don't do it every week."

Mott also got another fast work from Proviso, who went four furlongs in 46.63 seconds on the turf Sunday morning in preparation for Saturday's Grade 1 Just a Game.

Nordic Truce heads Hill Prince

The defection of Interactif to the Belmont Stakes had the racing office scrambling to fill Friday's Grade 3, $100,000 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds on the turf. A field of six was entered, led by undefeated Nordic Truce, but it is unlikely that all six will run. The race was carded as the fourth on the 10-race program.

Lethal Combination, who finished fourth in Saturday's Lamplighter Stakes at Monmouth Park, was one of two horses entered by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who is more likely to start Krypton.

Nordic Truce, trained by Clement, is 3 for 3 including victories in the Dania Beach at Gulfstream and Grade 3 Transylvania at Keeneland. He will likely be a heavy favorite under Ramon Dominguez from post 5.

The field, from the rail out, comprises Krypton, Avenging Spirit, Noah's Dream, Gold Medallion, Nordic Truce, and Lethal Combination.

Remand and Six Clicks were entered for the main track.

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