02/21/2008 12:00AM

Cosmonaut returns in stakes

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - Cosmonaut, who led into the final furlong of last year's Breeders' Cup Mile at Monmouth Park, will make his 2008 debut in Saturday's $150,000 Tampa Bay Downs Breeders' Cup. Thirteen were entered in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, with Archer's Alyancer the lone also-eligible.

The Tampa BC has drawn a deep field that also includes Icy Atlantic, Soldier's Dancer, Yate's Black Cat, Pleasant Strike, and Ascertain.

Cosmonaut, who finished third in the BC Mile, beaten two lengths by Kip Deville and Excellent Art, will be making his first start for trainer Phil Serpe after being conditioned for most of last year by the suspended trainer Patrick Biancone.

In his last start of 2007, Cosmonaut finished second in the Grade 3 River City Handicap on Nov. 23. Serpe says Cosmonaut, now 6, is ready for the Tampa BC.

"He got some freshening for a month or so, and since he's been back in training, he's been a thorough professional," Serpe said. "I think he'll give a good account of himself Saturday."

Cosmonaut won his 2007 debut off a layoff over allowance runners at Keeneland. He followed that race with a close second-place finish in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico and then was fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Grade 1 Manhattan at Belmont. His biggest win of the year came in the Grade 3 Arlington Park Handicap.

Serpe said the distance of the Tampa BC is ideal for Cosmonaut. "Anything beyond a mile and an eighth is really a bit of stretch for him," he said.

Edgar Prado will be aboard Cosmonaut at 116 pounds.

Icy Atlantic won 3 of 9 starts last season, including the Grade 2 Arcadia Handicap at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Red Bank at Monmouth. In his 2008 debut, he finished sixth, beaten 4 3/4 lengths, in the Sunshine Millions Turf.

Soldier's Dancer was a fast-closing second in the Sunshine Millions Turf while making his 4-year-old debut. He won the Grade 3 Calder Derby on the turf last fall and also won the Sophomore Turf here on Florida Cup Day last spring.

Yate's Black Cat closed from far back to finish second in the Grade 3 Canadian Turf Handicap at Gulfstream last time out while making his first start of the year.

Pleasant Strike took the Grade 3 Arlington Classic last summer as a 3-year-old, while Ascertain captured the Grade 3 Elkhorn at Keeneland last spring. Pleasant Strike also was entered in an optional claiming race Sunday at Gulfstream.