02/28/2004 1:00AM

Gryder puts Fond on lead in Busher


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Fond, the longest price in the field at 21-1, won the $81,600 Busher Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Fond, with jockey Aaron Gryder in the saddle, was a 1 3/4-length winner over Taittinger Rose. Showmesomelove finished third, a nose behind Taittinger Rose in the seven-horse field of 3-year-old fillies. Please Take Me Out, favored Mistda, Classic Example, and Exclusively Wild completed the order of finish in the 1 1/16-mile Busher.

Fond ($45.40) covered the distance in 1:44.93 over a fast track after setting fractions of 23.25 seconds, 47.41, 1:12.29, and 1:38.15.

Gryder made a quick decision early in the race that may have been the key to Fond's victory. He had ridden Please Take Me Out before and knew that the filly had early speed. But when Please Take Me Out's rider, Edwin Perez, didn't commit himself to setting the pace, Gryder knew what he had to do.

"I made the decision for [Perez]," said Gryder, who won the late double. "I decided to take advantage of taking the lead because I knew my filly's better races were on the lead, although she certainly isn't one-dimensional."

Trained by George Weaver and owned by Dogwood Stable, Fond won the Open Mind Stakes over the inner track in December. After the Open Mind, the filly finished a well-beaten fifth in the Busanda Stakes on Jan. 25. That performance probably accounted for her high odds in the Busher.

"Looking at the race on paper, we figured [Please Take Me Out] would take the lead and we could sit off of her," said Glen Brookfield, Weaver's assistant. "But she hesitated a little bit, and Aaron decided to go to the front. She's tough to get by when she has her head in front at the quarter pole."

Fond, a daughter of Old Trieste, has won three of seven starts and has earnings of $110,741.