04/02/2008 11:00PM

Cutback for Spring at Last


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Last year, trainer Doug O'Neill twice shipped Maryfield from California to New York, where she won two graded stakes en route to becoming the inaugural champion filly and mare sprinter.

O'Neill hopes he has equally good fortune when he ships Spring at Last cross-country for Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. It's hard to classify Spring at Last as a sprinter, because his last three wins have come at a mile (once on turf, once on dirt) and 1 1/8 miles.

That last win came in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap Feb. 2 at Gulfstream Park, where Spring at Last ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.35 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 107. O'Neill briefly considered the Dubai World Cup for Spring at Last, but felt he needed more time to be at his best. The next race on the calendar was the Carter, which means a cutback to seven furlongs.

"Most of the seven-furlong races, you got to be a miler or more to be competitive at seven eighths," O'Neill said. "A true-blue three-quarter kind of horse can't always get that extra eighth. He's doing great and this race is right there in front of us."

Spring at Last is no stranger to Aqueduct. As a 3-year-old in 2006, when trained by Todd Pletcher, Spring at Last won an allowance race by 7 1/2 lengths over the main track. WinStar Farm sold part-interest in the horse and he was transferred to O'Neill.

Spring at Last, the 121-pound highweight, will break from post 6 under Garrett Gomez.

There looks to be plenty of speed in this Carter, led by the undefeated (5 for 5) New York-bred Bustin Stones. A son of City Zip trained by Bruce Levine, Bustin Stones is coming off a front-running score in the Grade 2 General George Handicap at Laurel Park. He was able to outsprint Stormin Normandy, who is entered back in this field.

Bustin Stones will race on Lasix for the first time, as he bled in a workout last month. Levine has confidence his colt is ready to run another big race.

"I think there's more there," Levine said. "He's so lightly raced that I think racing is going to move him forward. He made all forward moves last year; I don't see why it won't be now. It's not like he had 20 races. I don't think he's peaked yet. Hopefully he hasn't."

King of the Roxy, and the Tony Dutrow-trained duo of Lord Snowdon and Premium Wine look to be the major threats to Spring at Last and Bustin Stones.

King of the Roxy comes off a six-length defeat in the Duncan F. Kenner Stakes going six furlongs at Fair Grounds on March 8, his first race in 5 1/2 months. Pletcher, his trainer, believes the seven furlongs of the Carter will suit him better.

"He ran about what we expected him to," Pletcher said. "I think now going to seven-eighths is a better distance for him."

Lord Snowdon was beaten a head by Bustin Stones in the General George after exchanging bumps with Premium Wine, who finished third in that race. Both have run well over Aqueduct's main track.

Richard Dutrow Jr. sends out three horses in here, including Not for Money, who comes off a second-level allowance win at seven furlongs at Gulfstream. Dutrow also saddles Stormin Normandy and City Attraction.

Ryan's for Real, beaten two lengths in the General George, completes the field.