08/31/2007 11:00PM

Buzzards Bay preps for Goodwood

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DEL MAR, Calif. - To say trainer Ron Ellis is sending Buzzards Bay into the $85,000 Windy Sands Handicap on Monday brimming with confidence would be, well, a complete lie.

Buzzards Bay has raced once on Del Mar's Polytrack, and he faltered badly, finishing eighth of nine in the San Diego Handicap the first week of the meeting. At the time, it looked like his Del Mar attendance would be one and done.

But he's back in. If nothing else, the Windy Sands is a means to an end for Buzzards Bay, with the goal, Ellis said, being the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes on Sept. 29 at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting. As for the Windy Sands itself, Ellis will be reduced to hoping, crossing his fingers, wearing lucky clothes, whatever it takes.

"I'm basically running here because of a lack of options," Ellis said. "Anything else and he'd have to ship cross-country. We want to run in the Goodwood to see if he belongs in the Breeders' Cup. To give him his best chance, we need to run."

In the San Diego, Ellis believes Buzzards Bay "just got frustrated and quit."

On his best day, Buzzards Bay would have this field at his mercy. He won the Californian this summer at Hollywood Park, won the Oaklawn Handicap last year, and two years ago won the Santa Anita Derby. But Polytrack is a whole new realm.

"Either they handle it or they don't," Ellis said.

Six others entered the one-mile Windy Sands, the fourth race on the card. Visa Parade is a winner over the track. Heatseaker was fifth in the San Diego after briefly hitting the front at the top of the stretch. Plug Me In returned from a lengthy layoff to win on the grass Aug.o11 and might find himself alone on the lead, depending on what tactics are employed with Buzzards Bay.

O'Neill runs two in I'm Smokin

Doug O'Neill is headed to his third Del Mar training title in the last four years, and he can pad his lead in the $100,000 I'm Smokin Stakes with My Redeemer and Topper Shopper, who are among the leading contenders in the six-furlong race for California-bred 2-year-olds.

My Redeemer was late-running second in a similar spot in the Graduation Stakes earlier in the meet.

"He's got a great style for a race that might set up for him with the pace up front," O'Neill said. "I liked his last race. Usually when you step up from a maiden race to a stakes, there's some regression, but he moved forward."

Topper Shopper romped against maidens in his first start on Polytrack and third lifetime start.

"He ran well enough the other day to warrant a start in this race for sure," O'Neill said. "They were excited about him from the time they sent him in to me."

Nine others are entered in the I'm Smokin, including the filly Golden Doc A, who is being wheeled back in five days after defeating fillies in the Generous Portion Stakes on Wednesday.

Nevada Worrier and Raise the River exit a highly rated maiden race on Aug. 12.