01/17/2009 12:00AM

Barrier Reef prevails in stretch battle

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Barrier Reef continued his love affair with Aqueduct's inner track, persevering through a stretch battle with Broadway Producer to win Saturday's $69,095 Evening Attire Stakes by a neck.

It was a length back to Brilliant Son in third. He was followed by Judiths Wild Rush and the pacesetting Barcola.

The victory was the fourth from five career inner-track starts for Barrier Reef, who is 0 for 5 elsewhere. His proficiency over the inner combined with a short field were the reasons trainer Tom Albertrani opted to wheel Barrier Reef back on just 15 days' rest.

Under Ramon Dominguez, Barrier Reef settled into last position while Barcola set fractions of 23.60 seconds and 46.64 for the opening half-mile, hounded by Brilliant Son.

Brilliant Son took the lead midway around the far turn, but Broadway Producer and Barrier Reef were launching three- and four-wide moves, respectively. Broadway Producer got the jump on Barrier Reef and even came back on that rival when Barrier Reef made the lead in midstretch.

But in the final 100 yards, Barrier Reef regained the lead and was able to outfinish Broadway Producer to the wire. Barrier Reef, a son of Mizzen Mast owned by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's Darley Stable, covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.81 and returned $5.

"One of my main goals was to get him to relax," Dominguez said. "He was pretty fresh today, and it took me a little longer than I wanted to get him back. Right after he relaxed, he was push-button. As soon as I came to [Broadway Producer], he dug back in and I knew it wasn't going to be an easy task at that point, but my horse kept on running."

Though Barrier Reef has failed to win outside of Aqueduct's inner track, his connections believe that may be more circumstance than anything else.

"I just think when he's healthy and happy, he's a quality horse that runs big," said Andy Rehm, assistant to Albertrani. "He's had his issues over time, and it just seems that he's done well here, but we'd like to think he'll perform just as well at other tracks down the road, hopefully."

Rehm said Barrier Reef could be pointed to the $65,000 Stymie Handicap here Feb. 28.