02/28/2009 12:00AM

Barrier Reef survives trouble

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Trainer Tom Albertrani continued his torrid run in 2009 because Barrier Reef continued his love affair with Aqueduct's inner track on Saturday.

After bobbling at the break and clipping heels with another rival around the far turn, Barrier Reef stormed home in the stretch under Ramon Dominguez to win the $71,305 Stymie Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths. The longshot Real Merchant rallied to get second by a half-length over True Resurgence.

Manteca, Researcher, Barcola, Judiths Wild Rush, and Brilliant Son completed the order of finish.

Between Aqueduct and Gulfstream, Albertrani has won seven stakes this year.

It was the second stakes win of 2009 for Barrier Reef, who last month won the Evening Attire. Overall, Barrier Reef has won 5 of 6 races over the inner track, including all three starts this winter.

Barrier Reef did not have the smoothest of trips in the Stymie. He bobbled at the break and trailed the field in the early stages while True Resurgence and Manteca dueled through a half-mile in 47.72 seconds and six furlongs in 1:11.85.

Barrier Reef advanced steadily into contention down the backside but found himself behind a tiring Barcola around the far turn. Dominguez said Barrier Reef clipped heels with Barcola, but quickly recovered. Turning for home, Dominguez swung Barrier Reef into the three path and, despite failing to change leads, he lumbered past True Resurgence en route to the victory. Barrier Reef covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.57 and returned $6.40 as the favorite.

"I was just impressed with the fact that after he clipped heels he came back up and he didn't miss anything, he was just right there ready to roll,'' said Dominguez, who won four races on the card. "He stayed on his left lead the last part, but he kept on running.''

Albertrani said he believes that Barrier Reef will eventually show that he's more than just an inner-track horse-for-course and will likely attempt to do that in the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior on the main track on April 4.

"I don't think it's the track, it's just a coincidence,'' Albertrani said.