05/27/2009 11:00PM

Aspiring Nick meets rival in return


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The lively rivalry between Bunker Hill and Aspiring Nick plays out again Saturday at Monmouth Park in the $70,000 Spend a Buck Stakes for 3-year-olds at one mile and 70 yards.

Bunker Hill has the advantage, 2-1, in their head-to-head showdowns. The colt is the "other" 3-year-old in the Derek Ryan barn - a stablemate to Musket Man, who ran third in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Bunker Hill got the early jump on Aspiring Nick in the three confrontations last season. Bunker Hill pulled out a narrow win over Uncle T Seven in the off-the-turf Continental Mile at Monmouth last August, with Aspiring Nick third.

They caught another off-the-turf spot the following month in the Go for the Green Juvenile Stakes at Delaware Park, with Bunker Hill prevailing by a head over Aspiring Nick.

Aspiring Nick turned the tables in their final meeting, edging Bunker Hill by a nose in the Dover Stakes at Delaware Park. It was the last outing of the season for both horses.

Bunker Hill has already run twice this year, while Aspiring Nick makes his 2009 debut.

After a narrow loss in the Blue N Gold Stakes at Charles Town, Bunker Hill accompanied Musket Man to Churchill Downs for a disastrous run in the Grade 3 American Turf Stakes.

In his grass debut on a rain-softened course, Bunker Hill was fractious in the gate, hopped at the start, and wound up beaten 34 lengths.

"If I wasn't there with Musket Man, he wouldn't have been there either," Ryan said. "We were hoping it would come off the turf. We had enough rain. If it wasn't a Grade 3, it probably would have come off."

Ryan feels confident, with the switch back to the main track.

"He's coming into the race good, and he should be tough," Ryan said.

Kendrick Carmouche will ride.

Trainer Tim Kelly gave Aspiring Nick the winter and most of the spring off, letting the large 17-hand gelding grow into himself.

Aspiring Nick, a closer last year, has shown Kelly more zip in his works this season. Chuckie Lopez, one of the top speed riders at the track, will be aboard - signaling a likely change in tactics for the horse, who is being pointed to the $1 million Haskell Invitational here Aug. 2.

"Every work here, Chuckie has been on and the horse is just doing super," Kelly said. "We hope he steps up, because our goal is the Haskell."

Smart Enough seeks second Wolf Hill win

Smart Enough smashed the course record in the 2007 Wolf Hill Stakes, clocking in at 1:00.81 for 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf.

A slight ligament injury following a second-place finish in the Grade 3 Shakertown Stakes at Keeneland cost the turf sprint star most of the 2008 season and a chance to defend his Wolf Hill title.

Two years later, Smart Enough is back for the $60,000 Wolf Hill on Saturday. He has one start under his belt this season, a third in the Grade 3 Aegon Turf Sprint Stakes at Churchill Downs.

"He is sort of on the comeback trail," trainer John R.S. Fisher said. "It was soft at Churchill, and he got a little tired on it, but I thought he ran a huge race."