09/24/2008 11:00PM

Fairbanks deserves another chance

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STICKNEY, Ill. - Fairbanks could not get the job done as the 4-5 favorite in the major handicap race of the spring Hawthorne meet, but bettors are likely to give him another chance in Hawthorne's biggest race of the fall, the Hawthorne Gold Cup here Saturday.

Fairbanks was one of seven entered in the Gold Cup, a Grade 2, $500,000 dirt race at 1 1/4 miles. The Gold Cup goes as race 8, and is one of four stakes on the second - and surely the best - program of Hawthorne's fall-winter meeting. The $50,000 Regal Rumor and the $100,000 Indian Maid precede it; the $150,000 Carey Memorial directly follows.

Trained for Team Valor Stable by Todd Pletcher, Fairbanks was the 4-5 choice here on April 18 in the Bill Hartack Memorial Handicap, but he finished second by more than three lengths to the unheralded Ryan's for Real. A spring and early-summer break appeared to serve Fairbanks well: In his first race after the Hartack, he won the $111,000 Duke of Magenta Stakes at Saratoga by almost six lengths, leading throughout under jockey Richard Migliore, who has the call again.

When Migliore rides Fairbanks, the horse tends to wind up on or near the pace, but Barcola, another Gold Cup entrant, might have designs on the front-end. Barcola faded to 10th after setting the pace at 45-1 in the Aug. 24 Pacific Classic, but that was his first start on a synthetic track, and the performance thus can be excused. At his best, Barcola finished a solid third behind Curlin and Einstein in the June 14 Stephen Foster at Churchill, and he could prove dangerous if Hawthorne's track carries speed.

Left in Fairbanks's wake last month at Saratoga was Magna Graduate, a one-paced third in the Duke of Magenta, but Magna Graduate - with purse earnings of almost $2.4 million - could do better this time. Trainer Steve Asmussen's assistant, Scott Blasi, has overseen Magna Graduate's preparations on the Saratoga training track, and Blasi said Magna Graduate has turned in "really good works" for the Gold Cup.

"We wanted to point him to the race at Hawthorne, and we didn't have him really tightened down for the last one," said Blasi. "He's trained great coming out of that."

Magna Graduate has gone 0 for 5 this year, while Fairbanks has won 1 of 5 starts. The horse having the best 2008 is Wayzata Bay, who posted a 38-1 upset this summer in the Grade 2 Cornhusker. Wayzata Bay, however, finished fifth in the 2007 Gold Cup, and might be better at distances up to nine furlongs.

Better than Bonds is winless in eight 2008 starts. Brothers Nicholas makes his open-stakes debut. Canela was cross-entered in the Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park.