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$1-million bonus adds spark to Belmont

Strike the Gold and Hansel each galloped a mile and a half Friday in the final tuneups for their return match in today's Belmont Stakes, the longest and richest of the four stakes on an razzle-dazzle afternoon of racing at Belmont Park. Clear weather with a temperature in the 80s and a dry, fast track were predicted for the rematch between the winners of the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

They will be racing nine other colts a mile and a half for a purse of $695,800 and a shot at the $1-million bonus for performance in the Triple Crown series. Corporate Report and Mane Minister also have chances to win the bonus jackpot.

"With the big sweeping turns and a field of only 11, it should be a very fair race, and one that favors speed," said D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Corporate Report.

But this also will be a race with other goals and milestones.

Julie Krone, riding the 12-to-1 shot Subordinated Debt, will become the first female jockey to appear in the race. Smooth Performance, who was flown across the Atlantic on Wednesday, will try to become the second Irish colt in a row to win New York's most important race, following Go and Go.

And Lukas, who has won more stakes races than any other trainer in modern times, will try for the sixth time to win his first Belmont.

The stakes parade will begin in the fifth race, the Colin, with nine colts racing a mile and an eighth for a purse of $100,000. It picks up drama in the sixth race, the Riva Ridge, when 11 colts run seven furlongs for a purse of $100,000.

The senior stars will follow in the Nassau County Handicap, a field of 10 going a mile and an eighth for a purse of $500,000 and bonus points in the American Championship Racing Series.

Finally, the main event, the Belmont Stakes. And a word to the wise from Johnny Campo, the trainer of Another Review, 13th in the Kentucky Derby and the early 30-to-1 long shot in the Belmont.

"This is a really tough race," Campo said. "Every trainer has ambitions, but at a mile and a half this is a jockey's race. Hey, Sherluck won the Belmont at 100 to 1 and everyone laughed at him." Sherluck won in 1960.

On the backstretch Friday, nobody was laughing at anybody as the 11 contenders went through their final paces. All agreed the race would be demanding, probably fast, absolutely competitive.

"We'll probably be last for a while," said Nick Zito, the trainer of Strike the Gold, who drew the outside post position. "But we've got to let the horse run his race. He has to settle. But then he'll make his run, just like he did in the Derby."

Scan trainer Scotty Schulhofer also saw his horse trying to solve the equation of speed and distance while the pace was being set by Corporate Report, Subordinated Debt and Smooth Performance. He predicted that Scan, like most of the others, would try to stay close without running out of zip.

The main puzzle was Smooth Performance, who has won three of nine starts in his career and finished in the money seven times, but always on grass. His trainer, Dermot Weld, reported that the trip from Ireland had been arduous.

"The whole trip took 12{ hours," the trainer said. "And he has never raced or trained on the dirt. But he's all right."

Some early pizazz was put into the weekend when Academy Award, a 5-year-old son of Secretariat , upset the favorites to win the Early Times Manhattan Handicap on the grass in record time for the stakes race. Academy Award paid $26 for every $2 bet to win and earned first prize of $111,600 for his owner, Peter E. Blum.

The Belmont Stakes

What: The 123rd running of the Belmont Stakes.

When: 5:30 p.m. today.

Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.

TV/radio: Ch. 10/WFLA-970

Distance: 1{ miles, dirt course.

Simulcast: Tampa Bay Downs, Tampa Greyhound, Tampa Jai Alai and Derby Lane.

The field

Horse Jockey Odds

1. Another Review Richard Migliore 30-1

2. Scan Chris McCarron 10-1

3. Mane Minister Alexis Solis 12-1

4. Lost Mountain Craig Perret 8-1

5. Hansel Jerry Bailey 3-1

6. Corporate Report Pat Day 8-1

7. Quintana Angel Cordero 20-1

8. Green Alligator Corey Nakatani 15-1

9. Subordinated Debt Julie Krone 12-1

10. Smooth Performance Michael Kinane 6-1

11. Strike The Gold Chris Antley 5-2

Bob's picks

These are the selections of free-lance handicapper Bob Bauer:

Green Alligator ran well in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and has trained impressively over the Belmont track for this test. He appears to be at the peak of his form now, as some of his opponents may be weary from their efforts in the first two Triple Crown races. Green Alligator was closing with good energy at the end of the 1\-mile Derby; the additional two furlongs of the Belmont Stakes may be to his liking.

Strike the Gold, the Kentucky Derby winner, can make ammends for his disappointing Preakness performance. Trainer Nick Zito and jockey Chris Antley race at Belmont daily, and this experience, along with Strike the Gold's ability, could be a tough combination to beat.

Hansel can take it all if he duplicates his winning Preakness form in the Belmont. However, he may be at a disadvantage here because he must compete without the medication Lasix, which is prohibited in New York State.

Smooth Performance, the son of Seattle Slew, has a good chance to stage an upset in his first start on a dirt track. He has been shipped from Ireland especially for this race and should be fresh and fit. Trainer Dermot Weld and Jockey Mick Kinnane took the Belmont Stakes last year with Go and Go and will try to make it two in a row today.

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