11/27/2008 12:00AM

Deep field for Fall Highweight

Barbara D. Livingston
Fabulous Strike is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last month over Santa Anita's synthetic surface.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Officially, the Fall Highweight Handicap was restored to a Grade 3 event beginning in 2009. Theoretically, that may be a downgrade considering the field assembled for Thursday's 95th edition of the six-furlong race that lost its graded status following the 2004 running.

Grade 1 winners Fabulous Strike and Idiot Proof along with multiple Grade 2 winner Songster and defending Fall Highweight winner Grand Champion are four of 10 runners entered in the $100,000 Fall Highweight, the featured event of Aqueduct's nine-race Thanksgiving Day card. First post is 11:25 a.m. Eastern.

Fabulous Strike, who won the Grade 1 Vosburgh in 2007, is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last month over Santa Anita's synthetic surface. Like most trainers whose horses weren't successful on Breeders' Cup Day, trainer Todd Beattie is hoping the surface was the reason.

"I know Ramon's sure convinced that he struggled with it," Beattie said, referring to jockey Ramon Dominguez. "He didn't get a hold of it like he did when he was on the dirt. At 6-1, we had to take a crack for $2 million."

Dominguez will be back aboard the speedy Fabulous Strike, the 136-pound highweight, from the rail.

Though Idiot Proof won the Grade 1 Ancient Title on a synthetic surface in 2007, his connections are convinced he's better on dirt. That's why owners Martin and Pam Wygod moved the horse from the California-based trainer Clifford Sise to the New York-based Bruce Levine. Idiot Proof has not been on dirt since he finished second to Benny the Bull in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in March.

He has breezed three times for Levine, who excels with horses in his care for the first time. John Velazquez rides Idiot Proof from post 9.

Jimmy Jerkens, the trainer of Grand Champion, said he's hoping Fabulous Strike and Idiot Proof aren't "quite as good as they used to be." If his last start was any indication, Grand Champion might better than he has ever been. Wearing blinkers for the first time, Grand Champion, dueled inside of Songster and drew clear for a 2 1/2-length victory.

In that race, Songster was making his first start in 18 months, or since he won the Grade 3 Bold Ruler in May 2007. A step forward off that race puts him in the hunt.

With so much speed in the field, late runners Ferocious Fires and Gold Trippi warrant consideration.