04/17/2002 11:00PM

Fonner Park: Stakes wide open


GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - A wide-open field of eight has been entered for Saturday's $25,000 Tondi-Budweiser Handicap at six furlongs.

Abbi's Choice is topweighted at 122 pounds off a solid third-place finish to Rub and Leaping Plum in the Pepsi Sprint on March 23 in his local debut. Abbi's Choice, a front-runner, is still in search of his first win this year. Perry Compton has the ride for owner Gary McDonald and trainer Kelly Von Hemel from post 3.

While Abbi's Choice does his best running on the lead, the presence of R C Mr Hay Boy raises the possibility of a hotly contested early pace. Should the pair hook up early it could open the door for any of the six stalkers or deep closers in the field.

Yankee Ruler has turned in a pair of solid efforts this year, including a second to Tate's Way in the Ogataul Handicap on March 9. He returned from that race to finish a closing third against $20,000 claimers two weeks ago and could pull off a mild upset. Yankee Ruler breaks from the inside post with Don Frazier to ride.

Harvey Bengal, like Yankee Ruler, runs from just off the pace and he defeated Yankee Ruler when they met two weeks ago. Jerry Carkeek will ride from post 4. Both horses are weighted at 114 pounds and should not be overlooked.

Medium Rare, Polar Barron, and Buzz Bar will all be making their seasonal debuts in the Tondi.

Medium Rare, second in the weights at 121 pounds, comes in from Oaklawn Park for trainer Roger Engel. He has been working well in Arkansas but has been off since finishing second to Abbi's Choice last November in the Autumn Classic Handicap at Remington Park.

Polar Barron, trained by Perry Ladd, has been in training here but has not started since October at The Woodlands.

Buzz Bar, owned and trained by Herb Riecken, has been off since having ankle surgery last May but brings the biggest bankroll of any of the starters into the race, with more than $250,000 from 12 wins in 37 lifetime starts.