05/15/2008 11:00PM

Fawkes chases a cheaper Ride the Rails

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MIAMI - Like many of his colleagues on the Calder backstretch, trainer David Fawkes is torn between staying home and racing for overnight and stakes purses that have been drastically reduced since the meet opened April 21, or shipping some of his stock up north to compete for purses that are more worthy of their abilities.

Fawkes has held out on making a move until this weekend, when he will put his first contingent of eight runners on a van bound for Delaware Park. In the meantime, Fawkes will try to win what is left of the original $50,000 purse earmarked for Sunday's Ride the Rails Stakes, a 3-year-old overnight event which will now be worth just $36,000 including a $3,500 supplement from the Florida Owners Awards program.

"I don't want to go - I'd much rather race down here - but some of my owners are getting antsy," said Fawkes. "I just hope they settle this mess before I have to send another load up north."

Fawkes will send out Sinners Repent as the likely favorite against only four rivals in the 1 1/16-mile Ride the Rails. Fawkes claimed Sinners Repent for $62,500 this winter at Gulfstream Park and reaped quick dividends after the son of Repent upset a strong field of first-level optional claiming and allowance foes - including the previously undefeated Barreling Home - going a mile on April 12.

"We found out a few things with him after we got him into the barn, including the fact his feet were bugging him a bit," Fawkes said. "So we pulled his shoes off for a while after we got him to help that situation. We also wanted to try something a little further than he'd been running prior to the claim."

Sinners Repent rallied from near the rear of the pack, then easily outkicked the even-money Barreling Home in the final furlong en route to a 1 1/2-length victory in his Gulfstream finale. The 87 Beyer Speed Figure he earned for the win was a career best.

"We nominated him to the Ohio Derby but decided to try him around two turns before sending him out of town against that kind of competition," said Fawkes. "This looks like a pretty good spot. We'll probably have to catch Mambo Meister, and the strategy will be to keep him within striking distance from the outset."

Mambo Meister was scheduled to compete in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream on April 12, but missed the race after he contracted a minor lung infection. A King Cugat gelding, Mambo Meister returns to Calder for the first time since leading throughout to win his maiden by six widening lengths in his juvenile finale on Nov. 25.

Trainer Phil Gleaves will take the blinkers off Mambo Meister on Sunday, hoping the equipment change "will help him relax a little more than in some of his races."

Nathan Ridge did make it to the Holy Bull, finishing a distant sixth behind Hey Byrn after breaking poorly and encountering much trouble around the clubhouse turn.

The Ride the Rails shares top billing on Sunday's card along with the $36,000 LuLu's Ransom Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf. Encanto Park, third after setting the pace in the Calder Oaks on April 26, figures to vie for favoritism along with Mysterious Jule and First Is Best, the latter of whom will have to draw in off the also-eligible list to compete.