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Nov 26, 2008

Thru The Binoculars

By: JOHN PIESEN


Fabulous Strike totes 136 in Fall Highweight

An infusion of class from the likes of Grade 1 winners FABULOUS STRIKE (Smart Strike) and IDIOT PROOF (Benchmark) will give Thursday's $100,000 Fall Highweight H. at Aqueduct one of its stronger renewals in recent years. A throwback to the days when horsemen accepted high imposts as a sign of respect for their horses, the formerly championship caliber race has in recent years served as the Big A's Thanksgiving Day feature.

With two-time Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Midnight Lute now retired, and thus not around to accept his 140-pound assignment for the Fall Highweight, the focus shifts to Fabulous Strike, who will carry the top impost of 136 pounds over the six-furlong trip. Falling a head short of defending his title in the Vosburgh S. (G1) two back, Fabulous Strike returns to the dirt Thursday following a non-threatening fifth over Pro-Ride in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.

Also returning to dirt is Idiot Proof, the 2007 Ancient Title S. (G1) winner who later finished second to Midnight Lute in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park. Idiot Proof is winless in six starts this season, but was a solid second to Benny the Bull in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) when last seen on the dirt. Since then he was second in the Green Flash H. over the Del Mar turf, then unplaced in both the Ancient Title S. on Pro-Ride and the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint. Idiot Proof carries 132 pounds.

Another class horse, SONGSTER (Songandaprayer), will be making just his second start following a layoff of nearly 18 months. The Darley colorbearer returned to the races November 6 following an aborted stallion career, weakening to third in allowance/optional claimer over the Fall Highweight course and distance. Prior to the layoff, Songster was victorious in the 2007 Bold Ruler H. (G3) in his first race back from another extended spell on the sidelines. Two years ago, Songster prevailed in both the Woody Stephens S. (G2) and Hirsch Jacobs S. (G3).

GRAND CHAMPION (Two Punch), who captured the Fall Highweight last year under a relatively feathery 130 pounds, will be hard pressed to repeat given the competition he is up against. The Jimmy Jerkens charge earned his belated first win of the season over Songster in the aforementioned overnight race three weeks ago. New York-breds comprise the rest of the logical contenders. FEROCIOUS FIRES (Lite the Fuse) is a multiple stakes winner this year and was a distant third in the Forego S. (G1) two back. STORMIN NORMANDY (Stormin Fever) posted a 1 1/2-length score in the Hudson H. for his third stakes triumph of the year, but he just ran last of six in the Itaka S. on Sunday. It would not be uncharacteristic of Richard Dutrow to wheel him right back.

One race prior to the Fall Highweight, state-bred fillies and mares will contest the $65,000 Shopping for Love S. over one mile on the turf. Last-out stakes winners CHESTORIA (Chester House), FOLLOW MY DREAM (Freud) and LOVE COVE (Not for Love) figure to well backed, as should the promising sophomore MERIWETHER JESSICA (Freud).

The nine-race holiday card kicks off at 11:25 a.m. (EST) with the Fall Highweight scheduled for 2:42 p.m.

On the New York worktab

Grade 2 winner DRY MARTINI (Slew Gin Fizz), recent victor of the Stuyvesant H. (G3), breezed four furlongs in :48 3/5 over the fast Belmont Park training track on Monday. The Billy Turner charge might reappear in the December 13 Queens County H. (G3).

STORM PLAY (Smart Strike), who has won all three starts by a combined 11 3/4 lengths including the Best of Luck S. last month, sped five furlongs in a bullet :59 in preparation for Saturday's Cigar Mile H. (G1).

Stakes winner SHINING IMAGE (Northern Afleet), second in the Indiana Oaks (G2) most recently, traveled in :48 4/5. She is aiming for Friday's Top Flight H. (G2).

HAMSA (Fusaichi Pegasus), runner-up in the Honey Bee S. and Gazelle S. (G1) in her last two, finished in :53 3/5.

EXECUTIVE FLEET (Northern Afleet), runner-up in the Carter H. (G1) two back but unplaced in the Bold Ruler H. (G3) in his only subsequent start, went in :48 1/5.

Colleen S. winner SMOKIN BAYOU (Smoke Glacken), unraced since a third-place effort in the Sorority S., breezed in :50.

GRAND MINSTREL (Grand Slam), a five-length winner of the Capote S. in his most recent outing last December 12, drilled five furlongs from the gate in :59 2/5.

Multiple stakes winner FEROCIOUS FIRES (Lite the Fuse), third in the Forego S. (G1) two back, worked three furlongs in :36 3/5 over the fast main track at Aqueduct in preparation for Thursday's Fall Highweight H.



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