Updated on 09/17/2011 9:40AM

Acid test for Grey Comet


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Saturday's $75,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct is unlikely to produce a starter for the spring classics, but it should give trainer Gary Contessa a better line on what kind of 3-year-old he has in Grey Comet.

After winning all three of his starts against New York-breds, Grey Comet meets open company for the first time in the Count Fleet, run at a mile and 70 yards over the inner track.

"It's an acid test," said Contessa, who saddled his meet-leading 10th winner on Thursday, longshot Toga's Triumph. "I think he's an open company-caliber horse."

Grey Comet, a son of Distinctive Pro, has done everything asked of him. He won his debut going six furlongs in the slop at Belmont on Oct. 12. A month later, he won a division of the New York Stallion Stakes going six furlongs over Aqueduct's main track. Last month, Grey Comet successfully stretched out to 1 1/16 miles, winning the Damon Runyon Stakes by 3 3/4 lengths over the inner oval.

"Six furlongs to two turns is a huge hurdle for any horse," Contessa said. "This horse really showed me, as well as [Aaron] Gryder in the morning, that he might be a natural to do something like that. Gryder worked him two turns and he worked unbelievable. He's so smart, and so easy to deal with; he doesn't have any quirks. He's good in the paddock, he's good in the gate, and he's good in the post parade. A horse like that makes it so much easier on a trainer."

Contessa said he had no qualms running Grey Comet back in 20 days.

"He sure has acted like he can do it," Contessa said. "I think he's going to be really tough to beat in this race."

Maryland shipper Penobscot Bay and Formidable Fox are the only other horses in the field who have done more than win their maiden.

Penobscot Bay has won both of his starts, including a slowly run two-turn allowance race at Laurel on Nov. 9.

Formidable Fox, equipped with blinkers for the first time, won an entry-level allowance race gate to wire here on Dec. 18. He turned back a challenge from Count Fleet rival Heavenly Kevin, who also has improved since the addition of blinkers for the white-hot Bob Barbara.

Formidable Fox figures to face pace pressure from Mustang Jock, a Ken McPeek-trained 3-year-old who won his maiden by 5 3/4 lengths over the inner track on Dec. 13.

Auto City and Midnight Charlie round out the field.

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