10/12/2001 11:00PM

Best of the Rest best in Spend a Buck

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MIAMI - Best of the Rest proved once again Saturday that when healthy and on top of his game he can compete with any handicap horse around. He won the $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap by 2 3/4 lengths over Dancing Guy. Three-time Grade 1 winner Sir Bear, the 8-5 favorite, finished third.

The Spend a Buck was one of seven stakes at Calder on Festival of the Sun Day on Saturday.

Best of the Rest's final time of 1:42.59 for the 1 1/16 miles of the Spend a Buck was just .04 seconds off the track record, set by Castlebrook three weeks earlier. He paid $6.60 as the second choice under Eibar Coa.

Saturday's result duplicated the order of finish of the 1999 Spend a Buck, which Best of the Rest won by nearly 10 lengths over Dancing Guy.

Knee problems, which have plagued Best of the Rest since the beginning of his career, sent the son of Skip Trial to the sidelines following his victory in the 1999 Spend a Buck. He came into Saturday's race with just two starts, both sprints, under his belt since that win.

"It takes an exceptional horse to beat this type of field off just two races in two years," said Eddie Plesa Jr., who trains Best of the Rest for Bea Oxenberg. "He's just an extraordinary horse who happens to have tremendously bad knees. If he had been sound, there is no telling how good he could have been."

Jockey Jerry Bailey said the 8-year-old Sir Bear did not seem to handle his home track well.

"He just doesn't like this racetrack as well as he does all of the others," said Bailey. "He was up into the bridle early in the race, but when I asked him to run he had nothing."

Plesa wins another

Plesa was back in the winner's circle again two hours later after Sara's Success ran down longshot Grey Ballet to capture the $200,000 Calder Oaks by a half-length under Cornelio Velazquez. The win was also the second on the day for Velasquez, who earlier rode Blissful Kiss to victory in the My Dear Girl Stakes.

Sara's Success raced well placed, then eased out from the rail and overtook Grey Ballet in deep stretch. Grey Ballet slipped through along the hedge and took a clear lead in early stretch. Sheppard's Watch, the 9-5 favorite, ran third.

"I've really wanted to get her back on the turf and see what she would do with a clean trip," said Plesa, referring to the fact that Sara's Success had encountered trouble when she finished sixth in Saratoga's Lake Placid Handicap in her previous grass appearance.

Sara's Success paid $10.80 after covering 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.22 over a firm course.

Fappie's Notebook comes from last

Fappie's Notebook did not have a horse beat leaving the backstretch in the $200,000 Smile Sprint Handicap, but he circled the field into the stretch and ran down Thrillin Discovery to post a half-length victory in the six-furlong dash. Bet Me Best, the 7-5 favorite, stopped badly after pressing a 21.16-second opening quarter-mile and was being eased at the finish.

Ridden by Jorge Chavez, Fappie's Notebook covered the distance in 1:09.89 and paid $5.80 as the second choice in a field of 12.

"We figured there would be a lot of speed," said Fappie's Notebook's trainer, Manny Tortora. "He doesn't have the zip he used to out of the gate, but he comes flying."

* Trainer Marty Wolfson dominated the early portion of the Festival of the Sun program, winning the $100,000 Flying Pidgeon Handicap with Mr. Pleasentfer ($12.40) and the $100,000 Shocker T. Handicap with Coolbythepool ($5.20).