ELMONT, N.Y., JUNE 7 -- On Jack Van Berg's 51st birthday, a small group gathered at his Belmont Park barn early this morning. Van Berg accepted a few good wishes, but the Hall of Fame trainer primarily fielded questions concerning Alysheba's lackluster fourth-place finish in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

"That was a long year yesterday," he said.

Van Berg said a postrace examination of Alysheba's throat revealed no sign of blood; the colt had had epiglottal surgery early this year and had received the anti-bleeding medication Lasix before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Because New York racing prohibits Lasix, it was not administered to Alysheba before the Belmont.

Alysheba jogged along the backstretch briefly this morning. "He was doin' great," said Van Berg, adding that the colt's legs would be X-rayed in light of his rough trip around the final turn on Saturday (they later proved negative). During that sequence, Alysheba was rallying alongside Cryptoclearance approaching the stretch when he was checked sharply by jockey Chris McCarron to avoid running into the faltering Gone West.

The move cost Alysheba several lengths -- ergo, second place -- and it cost McCarron and Van Berg $100,000 apiece as their cut of the $1 million bonus Alysheba would have won for earning the most points in the Triple Crown races. That windfall went to Bet Twice's owners, Blanche P. Levy and her son Robert Levy's Cisley Stable.

"I think he took a lot worse tumble up there than he did in the Derby {when clipped by Bet Twice}," Van Berg said. "He wasn't gonna beat the winner, but he would have been an easy second."

Van Berg said he realized the race was Bet Twice's well before the mishap. "I knew {Alysheba} was back too far, because they were going so slow," he said. "I think Craig Perret {Bet Twice's jockey} rode a very heady race. He saw how slow {the leaders} were going, and he just went on."

After the Belmont, McCarron blamed himself, claiming that his tactical errors -- most importantly, not putting Alysheba closer to the lead at the start -- compromised the colt's chance for the Triple Crown and squelched his bid for a second-place finish.

Van Berg recounted Saturday's frustration while sipping black coffee and overseeing the activity in his stable. And despite his joyless recollection of the Belmont, he delivered some light-hearted jabs.

"Chris was very upset with himself, said it was his fault we didn't get second," Van Berg said. "If it was a matter of human error, we're lucky we weren't flying an airplane. There we don't get a second chance."

Van Berg said Alysheba has earned a holiday ("He's had some hellish trips lately"), and that he might run next in the Aug. 22 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. The Travers also is on the agenda for Bet Twice.

For now, Van Berg is considering what to do with some unexpected free time.

"After yesterday, we don't have to worry about the 'Good Morning America' show," he said. "They canceled."