03/27/2008 11:00PM

Bustin Stones part of Levine's big meet


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - While he will be a bit sad to see Aqueduct's inner-track season come to an end on Sunday, trainer Bruce Levine will also have plenty to look forward to when the main track opens on Wednesday.

Levine will finish second to Gary Contessa in wins, starters, and purse money won for the four-month inner-track season that began Nov. 28. He has 49 winners at the meet through Friday.

"Spectacular winter," Levine, who averaged 33 winners each of the past three inner-track seasons, said Friday in his Belmont Park barn office. "Everything fell into place."

Levine, who has about 85 horses on the grounds, credits his success to having better-quality animals to run this year. Levine said many horses he ran last winter wound up going to Finger Lakes after one or two starts.

Next Saturday, two of Levine's best horses will be in action when Bustin Stones runs in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap and Temporary Saint takes a shot in the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Handicap.

Bustin Stones, a New York-bred son of City Zip, is undefeated in five starts and comes off a head victory in the Grade 2 General George Handicap at Laurel last month. Levine said Bustin Stones came out of that race so well that he would have run him before the Carter if he had found the right spot. Levine eschewed the Toboggan Handicap because he didn't want to turn the horse back from seven furlongs to six. The Carter is run at seven furlongs.

"I could have run him 10 days after he ran," Levine said. "If I could have found a spot in between, I would have run him."

Levine said Bustin Stones will run in the Carter on Lasix for the first time after showing some mucus and "a speck of blood" after a March 7 workout. Levine said Bustin Stones worked "really good" on Lasix on March 14 when he drilled five furlongs in 1:00.

Levine has always been high on Bustin Stones, whom he had to stop on last spring after the colt developed foot problems and then required double knee surgery. Levine looks forward to stretching Bustin Stones out in distance as the year goes on.

"If he wins [the Carter], our plan will be the Met Mile, then I'll stretch him out and see how far he wants to go," Levine said. "I don't know how far he wants to go. They didn't know how far Ghostzapper wanted to go."

Levine said that Edgar Prado will ride Bustin Stones after Ramon Dominguez picked up the mount on Eclipse Award winner Ginger Punch for the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn on the same day. Prado rode Bustin Stones to victory in the Screenland Stakes last May.

Temporary Saint is an example of the good fortune Levine had this winter. Owner Maggi Moss claimed Temporary Saint for $50,000 and sent him to Fair Grounds. But when a suitable race wouldn't fill for the horse, Moss sent him to Levine, who promptly won a third-level allowance race with him on Jan. 25. Temporary Saint then finished second in the Stymie after pressing the pace.

"He ran super last time," Levine said. "He did all the dirty work; speed was no good that day. He made Daaher run, backed off him, and hooked into him again."

While stereotyped as a claiming trainer, Levine said he doesn't claim as much as people think. Since Jan. 1, he has claimed 14 horses, mostly for Mike Repole, a relatively new client who likes to claim but who is also planning on upgrading his stable.

Roddy Valente, a longtime Levine client and the owner of Bustin Stones, purchased three yearlings at auction by sires such as Smart Strike, Vindication, and Harlan's Holiday.

Levine has high hopes for August Rex, a Maryland-bred son of Smoke Glacken, who won his debut by two lengths on March 22, running six furlongs in 1:09.95 while earning a 90 Beyer Speed Figure. He could run next in the Withers.

Divine Park successfully stretches out

Divine Park, last year's Withers winner, made a successful two-turn debut Friday, taking a third-level allowance race by 3 3/4 lengths. He covered the mile and 70 yards in 1:40.40 and returned $4.20.

Divine Park, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, had run twice since the Withers, finishing ninth in the Grade 1 Malibu in December and last in the Grade 2 General George.

In Friday's race, Divine Park pressed a strong early pace before getting away from I Ain't No Saint turning for home and cruising home an easy winner. Greeley's Legacy finished second.