02/19/2004 12:00AM

Best Turn field has 4 stakes winners


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - The current buzz is about horses on the Triple Crown trail, but a race for the less-fashionable members of the 3-year-old sprint division came up strong at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Seven entered the $75,000-added , including stakes winners Excellent Band, Smokume, Scary Bob, and Kiowa Prince. Two horses making their stakes debuts, Redskin Warrior and Abbondanza, could be major players in the six-furlong Best Turn.

Excellent Band and Smokume finished one-two in last November's Huntington Stakes over Aqueduct's main track. They met again at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 10 in the Grade 3 Spectacular Bid Stakes, where they faced a tougher field than they will in the Best Turn.

Excellent Band, a winner of 4 of 6 career starts, finished fifth, beaten eight lengths by the Spectacular Bid winner, Wynn Dot Comma. Smokume had the lead entering the stretch in that six-furlong race and finished fourth, beaten 2 1/2 lengths.

"He couldn't hold the lead in his last race," said Allen Jerkens, Excellent Band's trainer. "But I think he likes the cold weather better, and he did work very well [at Belmont Park] last week."

Shannon Uske rides Smokume, who has early speed, from post 2.

Redskin Warrior hasn't run since winning a first-level allowance race under a hand ride on Oct. 30. He was vanned off the track after the race because he severely cut the back of his front ankles during the race, according to trainer Jennifer Pedersen.

"I'm very pleased with the way he is training," Pedersen said. "I would hope that he is at least three-quarters fit. Obviously, we are looking at the future, but he is coming into this race where he should be."

Richard Migliore rides Redskin Warrior, who has been working sharply at Aqueduct, from post 6.

Rain is in the forecast, which shouldn't hurt Excellent Band, Smokume, or Abbondanza.

Abbondanza, trained by Tim Tullock, won his career debut by 5 3/4 lengths in the mud on Feb. 4 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96, the highest in the Best Turn field. The runner-up, Pisgah, destroyed a field of maidens by 6 3/4 lengths in his next start.

Tom Bush, the trainer of Maria's Mon winner Scary Bob, said his gelding might not have cared for the track when he finished third in the Fred "Cappy" Capossela over a surface labeled "good" last month.

Kiowa Prince, who won the Dancing Count in Maryland in January, and Matsui, an allowance winner at Aqueduct earlier this month, complete the field.