03/25/2004 12:00AM

Floater attempts to rebound

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GROVE CITY, Ohio - Floater, winner of last year's Best of Ohio Juvenile, looks to rebound from his first career loss, when he heads a field of 12 Ohio-bred 3-year-olds in Saturday's $40,000 Howard B. Noonan Stakes at Beulah Park.

Trained by Tim Girten, Floater won his first four starts, including two stakes races around two turns, the $75,000 Juvenile at Thistledown in September and the Best of Ohio here Oct. 4.

After a two-month layoff, Floater faced open company in the Inaugural Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Dec. 13. He never fired and finished 12th in the 14-horse field.

A gelded son of Salt Lake, Floater has the best credentials of any entrant in the six-furlong Noonan but may be vulnerable as he shows only one recorded workout since his last start, a slow half-mile drill last Saturday at Thistledown.

Huber Villa-Gomez will be in to ride Floater on Saturday. Floater will start as the 122-pound highweight under the allowance conditions of the race. Floater will be coupled in the wagering with the Jim Morgan-trained Just Us Honey as a Eutrophia Farm-owned entry.

Cayenne Red and Oh Oleg are the main challengers. Cayenne Red tries stakes company for the first time. Trained by Donn Rowe, Cayenne Red is a front-runner who has won four of five career starts. Beulah Park's leading rider Marco Ccamaque has a return call on Cayenne Red.

Oh Oleg, trained by Miguel Feliciano, returns from Tampa Bay Downs. He finished a closing third in the Best of Ohio last fall but was well in front of Floater when fourth in the Inaugural at Tampa. Oh Oleg's regular rider Ricardo Feliciano has the mount Saturday.