Updated on 09/16/2011 7:10AM

Best of the Rest rejuvenates


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - After finishing off the board in three consecutive starts, Best of the Rest needed a confidence booster. Friday's $80,500 Unbridled Handicap proved just what the doctor ordered as Best of the Rest got back on the winning track with a three-length victory over Groomstick Stock's in an overnight stakes at Gulfstream Park restricted to Florida-breds.

Best of the Rest appeared at the top of his game following yet another injury-related layoff after easily winning the Spend a Buck and King Rex handicaps at Calder last fall. But a combination of poor racing luck and the change in venue from Calder to Gulfstream resulted in three straight setbacks that included a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap here earlier this season.

So trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. decided a return to softer company might be in order for the 7-year-old Best of the Rest and the Unbridled provided the ideal spot. Facing ungraded competition, Best of the Rest ($3.80) forced the early pace of Groomstick Stock's then readily ran down the leader in early stretch before drawing off convincingly under regular rider Eibar Coa.

"I'm still not totally convinced he cares for this track like he does Calder but today's field was not as imposing as the ones he's faced in his previous two starts," said Plesa. "This was a good spot for him to re-establish himself."

Plesa said he will wait and see how Best of the Rest comes out of the race before deciding when and where the talented but fragile veteran may run next. He also didn't rule out taking his handicap star on the road for the first time this season.

"We'll check out our options, which include a stakes at Calder on Memorial Day," said Plesa. "Although, knock on wood, with a little luck I think he'll be traveling somewhere this summer."

Fair Apache tops turf sprint

Entries will be at a premium over the final two weeks of the meet although there was certainly no lack of interest on the part of horsemen in Sunday's $75,000 Marshua's River Stakes, which lured a full field of 12 fillies and mares plus one also-eligible to go five furlongs on the turf.

Topping the list will be the California invader Fair Apache, a Santa Anita-based speedster who has held her own against some top quality competition in West Coast turf sprints over the past two seasons. Trained by Chris Paasch, Fair Apache was a stakes winner in 2001 and comes in off a fifth-place finish in the 6 1/2-furlong Irish O'Brien Stakes at Santa Anita on March 17.

The local contingent will be headed by Flying Birdie, Curious Treasures, and Elvi Gamble.

Speed has been a hot commodity in five-furlong turf sprints, which should give Flying Birdie a distinct advantage in the Marshua's River as she is rarely if ever headed during the opening quarter- or half-mile of her races. She was an easy winner of her only previous start on grass.

* Jockey Chris DeCarlo fractured the L1 vertebrae of his lower spine after being thrown to the ground when his mount, La Spreazzatura, hit the rail on the clubhouse turn during the running of Thursday's finale. De Carlo won last Saturday's $250,000 Aventura Handicap aboard Marasca.

* Apprentice jockey Luis Chavez won the first race of his career when he guided Halo of Truth to victory in Wednesday's fourth race for trainer Herman Wilensky. A 17-year-old native of Chile, Chavez became the first apprentice jockey to win a race at the current meet, which began on January 3.

* Wopping turned in one of the most impressive performances of the meet when he drew off to a 12-length victory in Thursday's $46,000 allowance feature for 3-year-old fillies. Her final time of 1:09.20 for six furlongs was the fastest at the distance this meet.

* Thursday's crowd of 4,528 was one of the smallest here in some time but it was still larger than the 4,446 fans who attended the Florida Marlins-Montreal Expos game at Pro Player Stadium later that evening.

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