01/08/2005 12:00AM

Badge of Silver displays grit

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Badge of Silver, ridden by Jerry Bailey, was clearly in front at this point in the stretch but challengers were coming at him in the Hal's Hope.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Badge of Silver came into the $100,000 as the second-best handicap horse in owner Ken and Sarah Ramsey's potent stable behind Roses in May. But Badge of Silver served notice that he may also be ready to join the upper echelon of the handicap ranks with his victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Hal's Hope.

The 1 1/8-mile Hal's Hope was the highlight of a nine-race program at Gulfstream Park that also included the Aventura Stakes and Mr. Prospector Handicap.

Roses in May was assigned high weight of 120 pounds for the Hal's Hope but is currently being pointed for the Grade 1 Donn Handicap by trainer Dale Romans. Badge of Silver carried 115 pounds to his well-deserved neck victory over the hard-luck Dynever.

As expected, Commentator set the pace in the Hal's Hope, with Smooth Lover hot on his heels and Badge of Silver, under Jerry Bailey, reserved only three lengths off the lead. Badge of Silver ($6.40) moved three wide to challenge for command into the stretch, edged clear at the head of the lane, then held on determinedly to withstand Dynever and a strong challenge from longshot Contante, who finished third.

Commentator tired badly once relinquishing the lead and finished seventh while suffering his first defeat in six career starts.

Badge of Silver ran the nine furlongs in 1:48.57 over a fast track. He went off the slight 2-1 favorite in a field reduced to 12 starters due to the late scratch of Deputy Lad.

Badge of Silver was transferred to trainer Bobby Frankel's barn prior to returning from a lengthy vacation during the fall and entered the Hal's Hope off a second-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

"To be honest, at the sixteenth pole when I saw Dynever coming I thought we were beat, but he really dug in there," said Frankel.

"That was really a gutsy effort and an awful lot of work for only $100,000," said Bailey.

Dynever, who was purchased privately just a week ago by Buckram Oak Farm, finished second for the seventh time in 17 starts.

"I'm upset because yet again my horse ran a superb race but did not win," said trainer Christophe Clement.