04/29/2002 11:00PM

Bond's first-time turf


JAMAICA, N.Y. - The moving vans are at the ready for next week's shift to Belmont Park, but in the meantime horseplayers get a Derby-week treat on Thursday with one of the most interesting weekday cards in New York since last fall at Belmont.

Highlighting the treat is the seventh race, a 1 1/8-mile allowance on the turf course for older males who have not won a meaningful turf race in the last eight months.

The field of eight includes the 7-year-old gelding Pleasant Breeze, a millionaire winner of the 2000 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap, and third-place finisher in last year's Pimlico Special with a Beyer of 111. The James Bond-trained Pleasant Breeze has never run on grass, and may have been entered in the hopes of an off-turf situation, but why then wasn't he simply put on the main-track-only list with the likes of Golden Contender, Evening Attire, Runspastum, Classic Endeavor, and Stellianos?

Moreover, Bond has a 7-for-35 first-turf record since January 2001, good for a $3.73 return on a $2 investment.

If the race switches to dirt, a clash between Pleasant Breeze and Evening Attire - who won three straight Grade 3 stakes after adding blinkers at the turn of the year - would be an unusually strong match-up for a Thursday at Aqueduct. But even if it stays on turf and Pleasant Breeze comes out, the lineup still contains the Bill Mott-trained 2000 Saranac and Lexington winner Rob's Spirit; Slew the Red, a two-time Group 3 winner in France last year who makes his first start for Neil Drysdale; and 2000 Hialeah Turf Cup winner Monkey Puzzle.

There are several other highlights on the program, beginning in the second race, when Just Reward and Eskimo Baby, two fast-finishing runners-up in their recent debuts, square off out of the chute in a high-quality maiden special weight mile for 3-year-old fillies.

Just Reward, whose dam, Heavenly Prize, was the champion 3-year-old filly of 1994 for the same connections, raced greenly through the early stages of her six-furlong debut while under the patient handling of Pat Day, and finished like an express train for trainer Shug McGaughey.

While Just Reward stretches out, Eskimo Baby will be turning back after beginning her career in a 1 1/16-mile turf route two weeks ago for trainer Allen Jerkens.

The third race is the second 4 1/2-furlong juvenile sprint this year in New York, and the first for colts.

In the sixth race, Run Kush Run, the pacesetter of the recent Paumonok and Toboggan handicaps, drops into a $50,000 claimer and will attempt to stretch his speed to a mile.