08/31/2003 11:00PM

Ellis: Hard Buck tops in field of only three

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In stark contrast to the large fields that dominated its 41-day meet, Ellis Park closed Monday with Hard Buck winning the $75,000 Tri-State Handicap in a field of three.

Hard Buck, ridden by leading jockey Rafael Bejarano, was making his U.S. debut for owner Team Victory and trainer Ken McPeek. A 4-year-old Brazilian-bred by Spend a Buck, the colt raced Classic Par into defeat before finishing well clear of Red Mountain, who nipped Classic Par for second.

Hard Buck returned $4.60 to win after finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.19 over a yielding turf. Five horses were entered, but G P Fleet and Dontbotherknocking were early scratches.

In the first race Monday, Sir Dorset won a 2 1/4-mile race by 43 1/2 lengths, believed to be a track-record margin.