08/16/2001 12:00AM

'Buster' on the road less taken


Call it unconventional. Call it unusual. Call it different, to be sure.

Call it whatever you want, but trainer Tim Tullock will be at Ellis Park Saturday to saddle Buster's Daydream, winner of the Sanford, Tremont, and Flash Stakes in his last three starts.

The race is the $100,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, a seven-furlong race in which Buster's Daydream figures as a heavy favorite. Tullock, a New Englander currently based in Maryland, concedes that going out of his way to skip New York fixtures such as the Saratoga Special and Hopeful has raised some eyebrows.

"I wanted to start stretching him out right now," said Tullock, who trains Buster's Daydream for the S J Bee Stable of Steve Barberino. "That's basically the whole reason for doing this. We need to find out how he handles a longer distance."

Buster's Daydream, by Housebuster, lost his debut at Aqueduct before reeling off four straight wins, including the three New York stakes. Gifted with exceptional speed, he should be able to clear the field at once before proceeding to victory. Tullock said he hopes the Juvenile will serve as a useful prep for the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 16, with the Oct. 27 Breeders' Cup Juvenile being the ultimate goal.

Tullock has chosen the top Maryland jockey, Mark Johnston, to come in to ride Buster's Daydream in the Ellis Park Juvenile, ninth of 10 Saturday races at the Henderson, Ky., track. Johnston is a native of Lebanon, Ky.

Among the seven rivals for Buster's Daydream, the most capable upsetters appear to be Handsome Hunk and Request for Parole.

* One race earlier, the $100,000 Ellis Park Debutante also will have a strong favorite in Lakeside Cup, also in off a sharp race at Saratoga. The Bernie Flint-trained filly finished second in the Schuylerville on opening day at the Spa. Eleven 2-year-old fillies will oppose her.

* Ellis officials have announced another purse hike. Effective Wednesday, purses have been increased nine percent, the second increase in two weeks.

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