05/27/2002 12:00AM

Calder: Best of the Rest prevails


MIAMI - Best of the Rest ($3.40) finally got the long awaited and much deserved first graded stakes victory of his career when he scored a half-length victory over High Ideal in the $100,000 Memorial Day Handicap at Calder.

Under highweight of 123 pounds, Best of the Rest took the race right to multiple Grade 1 winner Hal's Hope, pressing the pace from the outset of the Grade 3 stakes. Best of the Rest eventually forged to a short advantage nearing the midway point of the second turn, shook off Hal's Hope leaving the furlong grounds, then withstood High Ideal despite having his jockey, Cornelio Velasquez, briefly lose his right iron in deep stretch.

High Ideal, who carried 11 pounds less than the winner, rated within easy striking distance behind the dueling leaders and finished willingly, though he failed to change leads down the stretch. Hal's Hope finished another 2 1/2 lengths farther back in third with Dancing Guy fourth and last throughout.

Best of the Rest covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.75 over a fast track.

"Finally we got a graded win," said Eddie Plesa Jr., who trains Best of the Rest for owner-breeder Bea Oxenberg. "We wanted an honest pace so I had Cornelio challenge Hal's Hope from the start. Fortunately the weight didn't stop the train from coming through."

Plesa said the Grade 3, $400,000 Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap at Prairie Meadows on July 6 is being considered for Best of the Rest's next start.