08/31/2008 11:00PM

Buffalo Man has multiple options


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The strong finish by Buffalo Man to capture the Grade 3, $150,000 Red Bank Stakes on the turf at Monmouth Park last Saturday convinced trainer Cam Gambolati that the 4-year-old colt can step up to the next level.

Just exactly where that level takes Buffalo Man remains to be resolved.

Buffalo Man, showing a welcome ability to rate and rally for jockey Carlos Marquez Jr., got up by three-quarters of a length over the defending Red Bank champion, Icy Atlantic.

"He came out of it good," Gambolati said. "Everything is fine. He impressed me the other day. I think that was the best race he's ever run, the way he exploded down the lane. We have a new plan of attack: Take him back and let him settle."

Gambolati is now weighing three options: the Grade 2, $250,000 Kelso Handicap, a one-mile race at Belmont Park on Sept. 28; the Grade 2 $500,000 Neartic Stakes at six furlongs on Oct. 4 at Woodbine; or the Grade 1, $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, also on Oct. 4.

At first glance, Gambolati is inclined to stay close to home for the Kelso.

"That would probably be my first option," Gambolati said. "The one-turn mile at Belmont would be the right thing for this horse."

But then, these decisions are never easy.

Buffalo Man is not eligible for the Breeders' Cup, which makes the Kelso less appealing with $100,000 of the purse coming from the Breeders' Cup Stakes fund. Buffalo Man would only be running for $150,000, making the other races far more lucrative.

"I think he deserves the chance to move up to a Grade 2 or Grade 1 and try it," Gambolati said. "We have to weigh the options and figure out what's best for him."

The Red Bank was Buffalo Man's second graded victory in a one-mile grass race, to go along with the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

"I think I'd go up to a mile and a sixteenth," Gambolati said. "I don't think I'd go a mile and an eighth anymore. In a mile, you get a hotter pace and closers can close better than in longer races where they are walking on the lead."

Should Buffalo Man win his next race, the Breeders' Cup becomes a possibility, even with the supplement penalty. Gambolati can envision either the Mile or the new Turf Sprint.

"The Breeders' Cup Mile is probably the toughest race in the world because you get the Europeans, who bring very good horses," Gambolati said. "Right now, we have to take it one step at a time."