12/06/2005 12:00AM

Form no problem in this field


Something has to give in Thursday's $50,000 optional claiming feature at Aqueduct. Seven of the eight entrants come into the mile-and-70-yard event off a big race; only one did not finish first or second in his last start. The money figures to be spread, but it may well be Happy Hunting of the Phipps family stable who grabs the spotlight.

A 4-year-old son of Seeking the Gold, hinted at ample ability for trainer Shug McGaughey in the spring, though it took him until his fourth start to win his maiden, on Aug. 20 at Saratoga. He raced impressively that day, dueling early, then prevailing in the mud. The win indicated he may be turning the corner, but he was dull in his first try against winners at Belmont on Sept. 18.

It appears, however, that McGaughey has Happy Hunting on the right path. Happy Hunting dueled and prevailed going about seven furlongs at Keeneland on Oct. 7, and then last time on the main track here Nov. 16, he pressed the pace, surged to a huge lead, and held on to win at 11-1, earning a career-best 94 Beyer Speed Figure. Norberto Arroyo Jr. rides.

The opposition for Happy Hunting will be strong. Bruce Levine sends out , fresh off two straight smart wins at Belmont and The Meadowlands. Levine has had enormous success the past few seasons with Southern California transplants, and here he has another. Eibar Coa rides.

is another who comes here in top form. Trained by Frank Laboccetta Jr., Ed Miracle was dynamic at Suffolk in the spring and summer, winning three of four there before going to Pimlico and winning on Aug. 29. Laboccetta claimed Ed Miracle for $25,000 that day, but his first start off the claim came against much tougher $50,000 foes in the mud at Saratoga, and the horse was nowhere after a slow start. He has romped in three straight since then, however, and is given another class hike here. Jean-Luc Samyn rides.

Also in the field are With Probability, who comes off an eight-length romp at The Meadowlands, and Admiralty Arch, who comes off two straight wins over $50,000 claimers and was claimed by Scott Lake last time.