10/07/2010 3:35PM

Comedero back at best distance in Gallant Bob

Barbara D. Livingston
Comedero is the Arkansas-bred horse of the year for 2010.

Comedero, a five-time stakes winner in sprints this season, returns to his best distance of six furlongs after an unsuccessful experiment in the mile-and-70-yard Smarty Jones Stakes a month ago when he returns to suburban Philadelphia for Saturday’s $250,000 Gallant Bob Handicap, the last major stakes of the season at Parx Racing.

Comedero, 6 for 7 at the distance, appeared sharp when he worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.60 seconds at Delaware Park on Sept. 26. The last time he shortened up to six furlongs following an unsuccessful one-mile race, Comedero won the Mountain Valley at Oaklawn Park.

A front-runner, Comedero will have a slightly easier task in the Gallant Bob with the defection of two other speedsters, reducing the field to six 3-year-olds. Smiling Tiger, a Grade 1 winner against older horses, will remain in Southern California for Saturday’s Ancient Title. The New York-based General Maximus ran third in the Easy N’ Dirty Stakes at Belmont Park on Wednesday.

Bank Merger, the most lightly raced horse in the field of eight with just three starts, poses the biggest threat to Comedero. Bank Merger was good enough to finish second last time out in the Grade 1, seven-furlong King’s Bishop at Saratoga. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is 5 for his last 15 with horses returning from a break of 31 to 60 days in non-graded stakes but is 0 for 6 with all horses shipping into Parx Racing.

The best last-race Beyer Speed Figure of 100 belongs to Rule by Night, who returns to the stakes ranks after getting up by a nose in a second-level optional claimer at Saratoga. He was fifth in each of his first two stakes appearances.

The Woodbine-based Sports Select will try dirt for the first time after winning three in a row on synthetics at his home track and Presque Isle Downs.

* Uncoupled stablemates Auction Watch and Dirge, who have combined to win the last three runnings of the Alphabet Soup Handicap, meet for the first time in the $75,000, 1 1/16-mile turf stakes for Pennsylvania-breds (race 7).

Auction Watch, a 7-year-old trained by Jonathan Sheppard, is 6 for 6 over the Parx Racing turf course, including the last two runnings of the Alphabet Soup.

The 8-year-old Dirge won the 2007 Alphabet Soup, but then missed almost two years before an abbreviated three-race campaign in 2009. In his only start this season for Sheppard, Dirge finished second in a $20,000 claiming race at Delaware Park on Sept. 21.