03/23/2008 11:00PM

Everybody's eyes on Rodman


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Aqueduct's inner-track meet doesn't match warm-weather tracks for showcasing early-season 3-year-olds, but every so often one comes along that makes people sit up and take notice, and that was the case when Rodman was unveiled for a flashy debut victory here Jan. 31.

The Mike Hushion-trained colt lends intrigue to Wednesday's eighth race, as he meets winners and stretches out from six furlongs to a mile in a first-level allowance and optional claimer.

Rodman had reasons to lose first time out, but after breaking slowly from the rail and lagging far behind off pedestrian fractions, he split horses with authority and drew off late under Channing Hill.

"It was pretty exciting the way he picked his way through a paceless race," said Hushion. "I was a little surprised he ran so well because he hadn't had much schooling behind horses. It goes to show that a lot of times they can either handle it or they can't."

A few days later, Rodman caught a bug that afflicted about 10 horses in Hushion's barn. He has rebounded with three progressively faster workouts, and drew favorably in post 2 for Wednesday's race.

Rodman concedes experience to six rivals with two-turn races under their belts, including the entry of Loaves and Dishes and Elixir for trainer Bruce Levine.

Elixir ran second to Loaves and Dishes in a $50,000 maiden claimer first time out this year. But in view of two subsequent starts, the latest a nose loss first out for Levine, he has obviously improved sharply in two starts since being gelded.

"That really helped him big time," said Levine.

Loaves and Dishes hasn't shown such dramatic improvement, but progressed well enough with Lasix added to win back-to-back starts in January. He comes off a good finish for third at this level.

"He's learning how to run," said Levine. "Every time out, he runs a little better."

The other two-time winner is Handsome Reward, who won two sprints nine days apart in early January, the second one a big-figure effort off a claim by Gary Contessa.

After being outsprinted in the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, Handsome Reward stretched out to two turns and chased Elixir to the stretch before finishing evenly for third.

The field also includes Parky, who has run well at long odds in both of his starts; Mint Lane, a front-running maiden winner two starts back; and Sebastian Cat, a six-length maiden winner with blinkers added who finished close behind Elixir and Handsome Reward three weeks ago.