04/07/2006 12:00AM

Fire Path owns top late kick in closer's race


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - There are three speed types and three closers among the six horses entered for Sunday's $37,000 optional claiming and allowance feature at Gulfstream Park. It is a scenario that figures to put one of the late runners in the winner's circle if the one-mile race unfolds as expected.

Notgonagetemtoday, Ricardo A, and Russian Bay should ensure an honest pace if they all start. A prospective speed battle is likely to set things up for Fire Path, My Snookie's Boy, or Itsawonderfulife.

appears the strongest of the three late-runners and is the choice to score his third straight victory. A 4-year-old son of Tale of the Cat, he has proven a popular item not only in the winner's circle but also at the claim box during the current meeting, winning twice out of the barns of Richard Dutrow Jr. and Wayne Catalano.

Fire Path rallied from sixth to beat $32,000 claiming rivals by 1 1/2 lengths for Dutrow on Feb. 24. He was claimed out of the race by Catalano, who moved his new acquisition up against $50,000 claimers four weeks later and was rewarded with a last-to-first half-length triumph.

Trainer Michael Rogers took Fire Path for $50,000 out of his last start, for owner Daniel Feiss, and has acquired the services of Cornelio Velasquez, the meet's second-leading rider, to handle the assignment.

My Snookie's Boy outfinished Itsawonderfulife by a neck to win a $50,000 claiming race going a mile on Feb. 12, both taking advantage of a biased racetrack that favored horses coming from off the pace and racing well off the rail.

stepped up in company and finished second behind the graded stakes-placed Noble Causeway three weeks later, and was claimed out of the race by his present connections, owner Paul Pompa Jr. and trainer Patrick Reynolds.

Itsawonderfulife has finished behind My Snookie's Boy in both of their previous meetings, missing by a neck in their first encounter and finishing 2 1/2 lengths behind that rival when third the next time, on March 5.

races under similar conditions but faces a much easier task than he faced in his only previous start at the meet, when he finished last in a full and deep field that included race winner Istan, runner-up Wanderin Boy, and Zoffinger.

Ricardo A returns to the main track after leading through midstretch and finishing fifth in a rapidly run $60,000 claiming race on the turf three weeks ago.