ELMONT, N.Y. -- The early track odds on the 15 entrants in tomorrow's Belmont Stakes reflect what gamblers here have been saying all week:
The race is wide-open. Take your best shot.
Cavonnier, runner-up by a nose in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness, is the lukewarm morning-line favorite at 3-1. The Nick Zito-trained entry of Louis Quatorze, the Preakness winner, and Saratoga Dandy, winner of Pimlico's Sir Barton Stakes, is second choice at 9-2.
Skip Away, the Preakness runner-up, and My Flag, the impressive filly, are 6-1, followed by the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Editor's Note and Prince of Thieves at 8-1.
The Lukas duo will not be coupled in the betting. Zito's pair will be coupled because the horses have the same owner.
Yesterday's post position draw -- as it did in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness -- placed Skip Away on the far outside. Trained by Sonny Hine and owned by his wife, Carolyn, Skip Away drew No. 13 -- between Louis Quatorze in post 12 and Cavonnier in 14.
In the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont, even with a large field, post position may not be a major factor. But Bob Baffert, trainer of Cavonnier, spoke for perhaps all the connections with horses stuck outside.
"I'm not really in love with the post position, but I can't change it," Baffert said. "All I can do is make sure my horse is ready to run. And he's ready. He's in great shape."
Lukas was delighted. When Editor's Note, third in the Preakness, drew No. 7, Lukas said, under his breath, "Perfect." And then, when Prince of Thieves, seventh in the Preakness, drew No. 6, he said, smiling, "Unbelievable."
Lukas, who arrived Wednesday, said he thought the winner of the Belmont would be among the horses who ran in the first two Triple Crown races -- his pair, Louis Quatorze, Skip Away and Cavonnier -- with one horse thrown in for good measure: My Flag.
Everyone seems wary of the filly, the only Belmont starter with two Grade I victories (Ashland Stakes and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies). She would be the 20th female to challenge the males in 128 runnings of the Belmont; only two have won.
Her connections are the highly respected trainer Shug McGaughey and owner Ogden Phipps.
"I think Shug is making a solid decision with the filly," Lukas said. "That's not a stretch putting her in there. She might even go favorite with her connections."
Tomorrow's field of 15 matches the largest in Belmont history. That number competed in the 1983 version, won by Caveat.
Three riders out
Three jockeys suffered injuries this week that forced them out of the Belmont.
Gary Stevens, who would have ridden Editor's Note, aggravated a lingering rotator-cuff injury Wednesday at Hollywood Park. According to Lukas, the jockey's left shoulder gave out when he lifted his arm during a race to whip a horse.
Shane Sellers, who would have ridden Skip Away, broke his right wrist and suffered a concussion in a spill Sunday at Churchill Downs. His mount, Commander Teddy, broke down and threw Sellers head-first onto the track, knocking the jockey unconscious. Commander Teddy, 3-year-old maiden, was humanely destroyed.
And the same day at Monmouth Park, Rick Wilson, who would have ridden the speedster Appealing Skier, or even perhaps Skip Away, was thrown from his mount and suffered a fractured vertebra.
In their places tomorrow, Rene Douglas will ride Editor's Note, Jose Santos will ride Skip Away and Richard Migliore will ride Appealing Skier.
Race for Cigar on table
Arlington International Racecourse has offered to create a $1 million race to attract Cigar, the 6-year-old Maryland-bred recovering from an apparently minor foot injury here at Belmont Park. The Illinois track would hold the race anytime except the weekend of the Aug. 25 Arlington Million, said Cigar's owner, Allen E. Paulson.
But first, Cigar, sidelined by a bruise on his right front hoof, must heal and resume training. If he can begin working out in the next few days, Paulson said, he still might be able to run June 30 in the $1 million Hollywood Gold Cup.
Cigar's win Saturday in the Massachusetts Handicap, in which he aggravated the bruise, was his 15th in a row. He is one short of Citation's record of 16 straight, set from 1948 to 1950.
Sam Houston Race Course in Texas also has offered to create a rich race for Cigar, possibly Oct. 5.
Bill Mott, Cigar's trainer, said the horse "is bored to tears. He can't quite figure out why he's not back on the track."
'Song' has an ulcer
Another horse on the mend at Belmont Park is Unbridled's Song, the beaten favorite in the Kentucky Derby. In addition to his injured left front foot, the highly publicized son of Unbridled now has an ulcer.
"We've put him on some medication and will keep him in light training," said his trainer, Jim Ryerson. "I don't think any race is definite for him right now. He's really not in any discomfort. Hopefully, this is not something serious, and it's something we can get under control."
Breeders' Cup moving
This fall's Breeders' Cup Championship will not be held at Woodbine Racetrack near Toronto, James E. Bassett III, president of Breeders' Cup Ltd., announced yesterday.
The Oct. 26 races will be moved to another track -- a decision on which track is expected in a week or two -- because of threatened labor actions at the track and throughout the Toronto area, Bassett said. The potential problems stem from a dispute involving Woodbine's mutuel clerks.
Belmont facts and field at a glance
When, where: Tomorrow, 5: 32 p.m., Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.
TV: Channels 2, 7, 4: 30 p.m.
Conditions: 1 1/2 miles, 3-year-olds, each carrying 126 pounds except My Flag (121).
Purse: $734,800 if 15 start. First: $440,880. Second: $146,960.
@4 Third: $80,828. Fourth: $44,088. Fifth: $22,044.
Pub Date: 6/07/96