For Walden, there's no second-guessing Menifee

Trainer looks for repeat of last year's Belmont

June 05, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Elliott Walden considers the score tied, same as last year.

The trainer from Kentucky acknowledges that his horse, Menifee, finished second to Charismatic in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. But because Menifee encountered a wide, rough trip in the Derby, Walden says, he believes Menifee was the better horse.

"In my mind the score's one-to-one," Walden said, "even though I know it's actually zero-to-two."

Walden said the same thing last year after his Victory Gallop finished second to Real Quiet in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, races remarkably similar to this year's versions. And in the Belmont, Victory Gallop avenged the defeats, denying Real Quiet's Triple Crown bid.

"I felt with Victory Gallop that he deserved to win one of these races," Walden said. "I feel the same way with Menifee. He would be a deserving winner."

Walden said Menifee seems to love the racing surface and his temporary home in his Belmont Park barn. The colt has breezed once over the Belmont surface. Charismatic, a late arrival, has only galloped upon the track.

"I think that might be a factor in our favor," Walden said. "And I think the bigger turns will help."

Asked yesterday about Charismatic, he said: "At some point I feel like his bubble's going to burst. I just don't know if that's going to happen tomorrow or not."

Mott's clear `Vision'

Bill Mott has saddled three horses in the Belmont. His best finish was fifth with Amathos in 1995.

Known more for his work with older horses such as Cigar, Mott says Vision and Verse represents his best chance of winning the race. A son of Storm Cat, Vision and Verse impressively won the Illinois Derby on May 8 to earn a berth in the Belmont.

"It was enough to warrant giving him the chance," Mott said. "Maybe we're looking to catch them on a day when maybe they're not at their best. Either that, or we've got to move up two steps."

Two shots for Zito today

Nick Zito has never won the Belmont, even though as a New York native this is the race he covets. In his eight tries, he has finished second four times.

He will saddle two today, Adonis and Stephen Got Even. Although Zito declines to choose between the two, Walden says the only horse besides Menifee or Charismatic he thinks can win is Stephen Got Even.

Zito is more expressive about Charismatic.

"You must look at him as a spectacular 3-year-old no matter what happens the rest of his life," Zito said.

Filly Three Ring wins

Racing for the first time since her trouble-marred last-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the filly Three Ring captured the Grade I $200,000 Acorn Stakes yesterday at Belmont Park.

After losing the lead in the stretch to Better Than Honour, she fought back to prevail by a head at 4-5 odds.

"She ran her eyeballs out," said Eddie Plesa Jr., her trainer.

Pub Date: 6/05/99

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