Hansel, Strike the Gold trainers see more stretch duels down line

ELMONT, N.Y. — ELMONT, N.Y. -- Two tired Belmont Stakes heroes will now receive a well-deserved rest and then, perhaps, will have a rematch.

Hansel and Strike the Gold, who staged one of the best stretch battles in Triple Crown history, came out of Saturday's Belmont Stakes without any problems, their trainers reported yesterday.


Frank Brothers, the noncommittal trainer of Belmont and $1 million Triple Crown Challenge winner Hansel, will send his horse back to his home at Arlington Park and then will carefully choose his next spot.

"There are the obvious races [Haskell, Travers, Super Derby], but I wouldn't want to say what we'll do," he said. "It will all make for a good rivalry down the line."


Strike the Gold, whose stretch drive fell just short when he finished a head behind Hansel, will be pointed for the July 27 Haskell at Monmouth Park, trainer Nick Zito said. His primary goal before the Breeders' Cup Classic will be the Aug. 17 Travers at Saratoga. Zito wants a rematch.

"Frank is a hell of a horse trainer and [owner] Mr. [Joe] Allbritton is a class act, but, and I don't want to be a wiseguy, there is not a horse around that can beat Strike the Gold three times in a row. I said that about Fly So Free and I mean the same thing with Hansel. I'm definitely looking forward to them meeting again."

In another Belmont development, Green Alligator, whose support at the mutuel windows before the race was the biggest surprise of the afternoon, appears to have had an excuse for his 10th-place finish. That won't matter much, though, to the fans who sent him off at 4-1.

"We 'scoped him after the race and found that he had a low-grade infection in his throat," said trainer Murray Johnson, whose wife Kim is from the Eastern Shore. "There was a lot of puss and mucous. It looked a lot like bleeding, but it wasn't bleeding. It answers a lot of our questions about what happened."