11/18/2008 12:00AM

Clement has two threats for turf stakes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Last week's rainy weather wiped out turf racing at Aqueduct for four straight days. If Mother Nature cooperates and Wednesday's featured $65,000 Four Bases overnight stakes stays on the grass at 1 1/16 miles, it should be a highly competitive race.

The pace complexion may depend on the weather, and whether Rick Dutrow Jr. runs Formal King, who is also entered in a starter handicap on the main track Thursday. Formal King, the lone 3-year-old, is a versatile gelding who has won 3 of 4 starts on turf and wet dirt since being stretched out to a mile or longer.

If Formal King should scratch, Buddy's Humor, a front-running winner of the Jersey Derby in his final start at 3 and the pacesetter in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy Handicap here back in April, could be the one to catch despite breaking from the far outside. A Bruce Levine-trained 4-year-old, Buddy's Humor makes his first start since July, when he ran a close fifth in the Grade 1 United Nations.

No matter the pace, Christophe Clement sends out two strong contenders in Operation Red Dawn and Nergal, who are uncoupled.

Over the past year, Operation Red Dawn has compiled five in-the-money finishes in graded stakes, including two at Aqueduct: a third in the Knickerbocker over soft turf last fall, and a runner-up finish in the Fort Marcy.

Nergal has won 3 of 6 starts in the United States, and raced effectively over soft and heavy ground in his native France.

"They're both very consistent horses - the type you dream to have in your barn," said Clement. "I wouldn't want to see the turf too soft for Operation Red Dawn, but for Nergal, soft ground is no problem."

Other contenders include Sensational Humor, a close second to Operation Red Dawn at Belmont earlier this year; Prince Rahy, in the money all four starts over Aqueduct's turf; Hotstufanthensome, fresh off a sharp score in the John Henry Stakes at the Meadowlands; Pick Six, who comes off a second-level allowance win; and Gimme Credit and Al Basha, New York-breds who were separated by a length in the recent Mohawk Handicap.

Hunting, winner of the Grade 3 Stuyvesant's 2007 running, and the Fair Hill-based Arcata, winner of the H.E. Johnson Memorial at Laurel earlier this year, entered for the main track only, in which case the distance would be shortened to a mile.