12/16/2004 12:00AM

Black Silk finds best stride at age 8

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Gators N Bears has been assigned 121 pounds for the Gravesend.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Most horses are no longer still running at age 8, much less running at their best. Black Silk is not like most horses.

Black Silk had a record of 3 for 40 when the year began. Sunday, he could be among the top three betting choices when he starts in the Grade 3, $100,000 Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct, the last graded stakes to be run in New York this year.

Since being transferred to New York-based trainer Laurie Lafavers in May 2003, Black Silk has won five of 15 starts. Four of those wins came this year, including a hard-fought nose victory in a classified allowance race over Aqueduct's main track on Nov. 27. He went 2 for 4 last winter over the inner track.

"They sent him to me thinking maybe I could get him going,'' Lafavers said. "I loved him from the first day we got him.''

Salah Fustok owns Black Silk. Salah Fustok is the brother of Mahmoud Fustok, who heads Buckram Oak Farm, which also has horses with Lafavers.

Black Silk, a gelded son of Zafonic, began his career in England, where he went 1 for 19 racing exclusively on turf for trainer Christian Wall.

Black Silk was moved to trainer Eduardo Inda in California and went 0 for 13, though he ran second four times on dirt.

In May 2003, Black Silk came to Lafavers. Because Black Silk tends to sweat, she thought he would excel during the winter. But he ran well enough when he first arrived that Lafavers ran him through the summer and fall.

After three in-the-money finishes, Black Silk won a high-priced claimer at Belmont Park on Sept. 18, 2003. He ran through his allowance conditions last winter and finished fourth in the Grade 3 Toboggan at odds of 50-1.

In last year's Gravesend, Black Silk finished sixth behind Shake You Down, but Lafavers believes there was an excuse for him that day.

"He broke so sharp and they were right after him,'' said Lafavers, reasoning that her horse could not handle the hotly contested pace.

Black Silk has since learned to be successful rating. After finishing third in the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap in May, Lafavers gave Black Silk the summer off to have him fresh and fit for the winter. Having not been out for six months, a fresh Black Silk raced on the pace while winning that Nov. 27 race by a nose.

"I knew he was ready to run,'' Lafavers said. "They went fast and he could have thrown in the towel. It was legitimately a really good race; it wasn't a gimme race.''

Black Silk was assigned 114 pounds for the Gravesend, seven fewer than Gators N Bears, who finished third in this race last year and is expected to run again.

Other probables are Mr. Whitestone (114), Papua (114), Eavesdropper (113), Uncle Camie (113), and Don Six (112). Bishop Court Hill (113) is possible.

Shake You Down to skip Gravesend

Shake You Down will not defend his title in Sunday's Gravesend Handicap, but trainer Scott Lake will still be represented in the six-furlong race.

Lake has taken over the training of Don Six, who had previously been trained by Frank Generazio, the husband of owner Patricia Generazio.

Lake said he took receipt of the horse about 10 days ago. While Frank Generazio maintains a string in New York during the winter, it is an assistant who runs the show.

Don Six has been competitive during the winter in New York, finishing second in last year's Paumonok and third in the Grade 3 Toboggan. Since putting together a string of solid efforts in the summer, Don Six has tailed off with three consecutive poor efforts.

Though he has only had Don Six a short time, Lake has grown attached to the 4-year-old.

"I love him,'' Lake said. "He's a great big, good-looking horse who does everything the way you want a horse to do it.''

Carson's Bridge heads City Zip

It is only appropriate that a son of Carson City is the horse to beat in the $50,000 City Zip Stakes for 2-year-old colts. City Zip, a Grade 1- winning sprinter trained by Linda Rice, was also a son of Carson City. The City Zip is run at six furlongs for 2-year-olds who have not won a stakes race.

Carson's Bridge certainly looked like a stakes-caliber colt when he won his maiden over Aqueduct's main track on Nov. 20. Carson's Bridge, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., dueled with Fortunate Storm early, then drew away from the rest of the field while winning by six lengths. He ran six furlongs in 1:10.51 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

Carson's Bridge, who will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, gets Lasix for the first time and shows a bullet five-furlong work for this. Benjamin Baby, a two-length maiden winner on Nov. 27, looms the major threat in this field of seven.

Diligent Gambler comes in third

Diligent Gambler fell 1 1/2 lengths short in his attempt to break a four-way tie and become the winningest horse of 2004. The 3-year-old Diligent Gambler finished third in a $50,000 claiming race on Thursday. He was not claimed.

Diligent Gambler was well back behind strong early fractions. Under Jean-Luc Samyn, Diligent Gambler moved into contention around the far turn, but could not keep up with Fire Hero in the stretch while being outfinished by Chelyan late. Diligent Gambler, trained by Leah Gyarmati, now has a record of 9-2-3 from 15 starts this year.

Flynn named NYRA trustee

New York horsemen will have more of a presence on the New York Racing Association Board of Trustees with Thursday's announcement that Bob Flynn has been named to the board.

Flynn, 50, is the executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association. His appointment is subject to the approval of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board.

"I am happy and honored to be named on the board,'' Flynn said. "I think this is going to be very positive for all concerned: for NYRA, for the horsemen, and for myself, especially in terms of communication with all aspects of our industry.''

Three winning pick six tickets

Despite the fact that no favorites won in the sequence, there were three winning tickets in Thursday's pick six. There was a two-day carryover of $148,285 entering the card. An additional $483,372 was bet on Thursday.

The winning combination of 11-7-1-6-4-5 returned $140,060. The consolation payout (5 of 6) returned $755. The winning sequence consisted of Forbidden Sea ($8.70), Fire Hero ($12.60), Forgotten Promise ($9.30), Qualified Opinion ($12.80), Coast Line ($10.40), and War Paint ($18.20).