Friday Stakes at Belmont are Warm-Up for the Big Day

Racing fans will be able to hone their handicapping skills for Saturday's 18th Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Belmont Park as five graded stakes are contested Friday afternoon.

Run as races five through nine on the 10-race card, the Nashua, Athenia, First Flight, and Knickerbocker will set the tone for the clash of the titans on Saturday.

An oversubscribed field of 22 fillies and mares were entered in the grade III Athenia, going 1 1/16 miles on the Widener turf, forcing the race to be split into divisions. The first division has eight horses in the body of the field and three on the also-eligible list, and will be run as race five. The second division will go off as the seventh race with eight in the body and three entered for the main track only.

A field of six 2-year-old colts will battle in the one-mile grade III Nashua. Godolphin Racing's Sunray Spirit is the only graded stakes winner in the bunch, likely earning him the favorite's status in this $1000,000 added-race.

Ivy's Jewel will headline the $150,000 First Flight Handicap (gr. II), going seven furlongs. The First Flight will be Ivy Heat's New York debut for trainer Tim Richey. Ivy's Jewel finished 5 1/4 lengths back in second to Xtra Heat in her last start, the grade III Endine on Sept. 8.

The $150,000 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIT) at 1 1/4 miles on the turf attracted a seasoned group of veterans, of which 12 will start. Of them, Cetewayo, Gritty Sandie, Manndar, Spindrift, and Sumitas have been grade I performers in the past.

The field for the Athenia (1st division) includes: Prospectress (Mike Smith, 115); Step With Style (Corey Nakatani, 114); Lady Dora (Aaron Gryder, 113); Siringas (Shaun Bridgmohan, 112); Verruma (John Velazquez, 114); Arty'svirginiagirl (David Flores, 112); Shooting Party (Jean-Luc Samyn, 111). Also eligible are: Search Party (no rider, 120); A.O.L. Hayes (no rider, 120); and Rochelle's Terms (Robbie Davis, 118).

The field for the Nashua includes: Thunder Days (Jorge Chavez, 115); Major Storm (Pat Day, 115); Monthir (John Velazquez, 115); Sunray Spirit (Eibar Coa, 122); and Listen Here (Jerry Bailey, 117).

The field for the Athenia (2nd division) includes: Batique (Edgar Prado, 114); Babae (Jorge Chavez, 116); Elegant Ridge (Jerry Bailey, 115); Zeiting (Jose Santos, 114); Tippity Witch (Javier Castellano, 113); Sweet Prospect (Pat Day, 110); Lady Brook (Norberto Arroyo Jr., 110); and Preseli (Chris McCarron, 116). Also eligible: Poivre (C.C. Lopez, 111); Kris Pit (no rider, 120); Summer Colony (John Velazquez, 117).

The field for the First Flight includes:Tugger (Jerry Bailey, 115); Kalookan Queen (Alex Solis, 119); Shine Again (Jean-Luc Samyn, 119); Wired to Fly (Victor Espinoza, 111); Finder's Fee (John Velazquez, 115); Ivy's Jewel (Jeremy Rose, 114); and Dream Supreme (Pat Day, 121).

The field for the Knickerbocker includes:Ready to Roll (Shaun Bridgmohan, 112); Rochester (Pat Day, 115); Cetewayo (John Velazquez, 117); Gritty Sandie (Corey Nakatani, 114); Spindrift (Jerry Bailey, 113); Eltawaasul (Victor Espinoza, 112); Sumitas (Edgar Prado, 115); Manndar (Garrett Gomez, 116); Deputy Strike (Norberto Arroyo Jr., 110); Crash Course (Mike Smith, 114); Man From Wicklow (Richard Migliore, 113); and Regal Dynasty (Jean-Luc Samyn, 113). Also eligible: Good Boy Sam (Gary Stevens, 110); Country Be Gold (Robbie Davis, 120); and Le Beaucet (no rider, 117).