06/04/2007 11:00PM

Bone claim climbs the ladder

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ALBANY, Calif. - Few owners play the claiming game as aggressively as Bob Bone.

He watches races across the country, claims horses for a number of trainers, and he works closely with each in planning strategy for his runners.

It often pays off in victories. As of Tuesday, Bone ranked fifth in the nation among owners in wins this year with 51 from 178 starts. His horses have earned just over $1 million. So when he and trainer Steve Sherman, who runs the Northern California operation of his father, Art, move a runner up the claiming ladder, that horse must be respected.

That's the case in Thursday's Golden Gate Fields feature, a six-furlong $32,000 claimer in which Curious Cody will be gunning for his fourth straight victory.

Bone claimed Curious Cody from his debut Oct. 9, 2006, at Calder. He ran twice more at Calder last year before moving to Mike Mitchell's Southern California barn. He ran third in a starter allowance in his first start for Mitchell, but then turned in a disappointing effort in a $20,000 claimer on Feb. 22 and was sent north to Sherman.

Dumped in for a $12,500 claiming tag, he won by six at Bay Meadows on March 15. He then won for $25,000 by open margins on April 5 at Bay Meadows and May 10 at Golden Gate.

"When we first got him, he trained very nonchalant," Sherman said.

"But in the afternoon, he's different, all business."

Dropping Curious Cody to the $12,500 level was done in part to restore the gelding's confidence.

"That's the aggressiveness of Bob Bone," Sherman said. "He puts horses in races where they have a chance to win. It worked with this horse, and he's been doing good ever since."

Curious Cody has five rivals in Thursday's race.

Jack the Duffer has speed and an outside post that should help. He scored a wire-to-wire victory at the $25,000 level two back and was close to the front until fading in the lane in an allowance race in his last start May 23 at Hollywood Park.

Jamaicanmelate steps up after running second to Curious Cody in his last start. Somthintomakimrun will try to rebound from a fade job in allowance company. Movie Fan is back in a sprint for the first time since winning in his debut.