10/24/2008 11:00PM

Formal Decree capitalizes on lead

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Taking full advantage of his inside post and a crafty ride from veteran Jean-Luc Samyn, Formal Decree stole Saturday's 49th running of the $111,400 Knickerbocker Handicap in broad daylight on a blustery afternoon at Belmont Park.

Formal Decree seized control of the 1 1/8-mile race through a leisurely opening quarter-mile in 24.93 seconds, got a half-mile in 48.31 seconds, turned back brief challenges through a sharp third quarter in 22.64 seconds into the far turn, and sprinted away through the stretch to win the Grade 3 stakes by three lengths over late-rallying Strike a Deal. Buffalo Man was a neck farther back in third, and Proudinsky finished a dull fourth as the 13-10 favorite.

"When I was turning for home, I was extremely happy - I had a lot of horse left," said Samyn, who will turn 52 in early November. Referring to the easy lead, he said, "It happens once in a blue moon . . . I do have a few years of experience."

The second choice in a field of eight, Formal Decree ($9.30) ran the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.57 over a very firm inner turf course, easily the fastest of 20 Knickerbickers run at the distance.

A 5-year-old gelding owned by Godolphin Stable, Formal Decree was making his fourth start of the year and fourth in the United States. He earned $66,840 for his eighth victory and was the seventh meet winner from just 13 starters for Godolphin and trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

Sport Page: Kodiak Kowboy holds on

In a good-looking prelude to a likely run at the Cigar Mile next month at Aqueduct, Kodiak Kowboy ($5.70) proved a punctual favorite in the 56th running of the $150,000 Sport Page Handicap for trainer Larry Jones and jockey Gabriel Saez.

Kodiak Kowboy was well positioned off the early pace, took charge into the stretch, and safely held Eternal Star and Roi Maudit at bay to win the Grade 3 event by 1 3/4 lengths. Merchant Marine, the 2-1 second choice, checked in fourth.

Kodiak Kowboy ran the seven furlongs over a fast but dull main track in 1:24.88, easily the slowest of 14 runnings of the Sport Page at the distance.