01/02/2008 12:00AM

Barrier Reef gaining focus

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - As a trainer for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum's Darley Stable, trainer Tom Albertrani understands that it is his job to develop horses that might eventually be transferred to Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin operation and another trainer.

In late 2007, Albertrani won maiden races with the colt Numaany and the filly Musical Note, both of whom were quickly transferred to Godolphin and either have gone or will soon be headed to Dubai.

But one maiden winner that Albertrani gets to keep - at least for now - is Barrier Reef, who took a most circuitous route to the winner's circle last month at Aqueduct. His immaturity prompted him to blow the first turn and race wide throughout, yet his talent led him to the winner's circle anyway.

Saturday, Barrier Reef will get a new test when he meets winners for the first time in the $75,000 Count Fleet Stakes over Aqueduct's inner track. The Count Fleet is the race Smarty Jones used in 2004 to kick off a 3-year-old campaign that included victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Barrier Reef is a long way from being a contender for the spring classics, but his breeding, connections, and maiden victory make him one to watch.

After finishing third in his debut going seven furlongs on Nov. 8, Barrier Reef ran in a two-turn mile race over the inner track on Dec. 8. That day, he blew the first turn and raced wide down the backstretch while in last pace. He split horses at the three-eighths pole and came five wide into the stretch. While Hedgefund Investor opened up a clear advantage, Barrier Reef drifted out when jockey John Velazquez hit him left-handed. Velazquez went to his right-handed whip, and Barrier Reef switched leads and came right next to Hedgefund Investor before leaving him behind in the final 70 yards.

"He's never been a real agile type of horse," said Albertrani, who two years ago won the Preakness for Darley with Bernardini. "A horse like him, it definitely benefited him going two turns and getting experience. He still has a lot more to improve only having the two races. He's trained forwardly since then. I thought watching him train into this race this week it looked like he's a lot more focused."

With Velazquez in south Florida, Alan Garcia has picked up the mount on Barrier Reef. His challengers are expected to include the undefeated New York-bred Giant Moon and multiple winners Atta Boy Andy, Red Reef, Roman Emperor, and Springs Road.

Bustin Stones nears return to racing

Bustin Stones, a New York-bred sprinter who won all three of his starts before having to go on the shelf for knee surgery in the spring, has rejoined trainer Bruce Levine's stable and is nearing a return to the races.

Bustin Stones had double knee surgery last spring and had been convalescing at Goldmark Farm in Ocala, Fla., where he has breezed six times since Nov. 10. Levine said Bustin Stones arrived at Belmont Park on Sunday, walked Monday, and went to the track Tuesday. Levine said he plans to breeze the horse another time or two before looking for a race.

"He's feeling good in this Northern air," Levine said. "I'll let him settle in and see how the weather holds."

Bustin Stones, a son of City Zip, won his first three starts by a combined 14 1/2 lengths, all against New York-bred company. He was being pointed to a start in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup on Belmont Stakes Day before he was injured.

"We were walking on clouds," said Levine, who trains Bustin Stones for Roddy Valente. "We had [Edgar] Prado to ride him in the Woody Stephens. I know [his pedigree] is speed on speed, but he gives me the impression he'll stretch out. He won going seven-eighths so easy. I'm hoping he stays sound to have a good enough campaign to see what I got."

Nite Light likely to run in King's Swan

Nite Light, the 10-length winner of the Gallant Fox Handicap last Saturday, will likely be pointed to the $65,000 King's Swan, an overnight stakes scheduled for 1 5/8 miles here on Jan. 24, his connections said.

"We're following the natural progression," said Seth Benzel, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. "If he keeps turning out performances like he did the other day, at some point I imagine he could step up a little bit. We're happy with the program Aqueduct has in the winter and we'll let him keep doing what he does best."

Nite Light, a son of Grade 1 winners Thunder Gulch and Lite Light, has won three consecutive races, including the Coyote Lakes at 1 1/2 miles and the Gallant Fox at 1 5/8 miles. He earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure for his dominant Gallant Fox score.

City Attraction pointing toward Paumonok

Coming off his first stakes victory in last Saturday's Grade 3 Gravesend Handicap, City Attraction will remain in New York and aim for the $75,000 Paumonok Handicap on Jan. 26, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said.

"I'm just going to keep him right there where he is," Dutrow said Wednesday from south Florida. "I would want to run him back on the inner track."

City Attraction earned a mediocre 87 Beyer for his Gravesend victory, but he showed a lot of courage battling on the lead and fending off two challenges.

"He ran big," Dutrow said.

NYRA's 2007 leaders

Jockey Eibar Coa, trainer Gary Contessa, and owner Winning Move Stable led their respective categories in terms of wins on the New York Racing Association circuit in 2007.

Coa won 262 races from 1,524 mounts and also led all jockeys in money won with $12,520,799. Rounding out the top five riders in wins were Alan Garcia (213), Cornelio Velasquez (156), Ramon Dominguez (155), and Mike Luzzi (128).

Contessa set a NYRA single-year record for wins with 159 from 1,137 starters. He also earned $7,040,197, which was second to Todd Pletcher ($8,040,512). Rounding out the top five in wins were Richard Dutrow Jr. (102), Kiaran McLaughlin (79), Pletcher (77), and Bruce Levine (75).

Steve Sigler's Winning Move Stable led all owners with 108 victories and $4,104,899 in purse money. Behind Winning Move was Zayat Stables (41), Flying Zee (33), Michael Dubb (33), and West Point Stable (27).

* Friday's nominal feature is a second-level allowance race for fillies and mares going a mile and 70 yards. Littletown Bridge stretches out second off the layoff for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Morning Gallop is in good form, but she is winless over the inner track and around two turns.