01/28/2011 2:37PM

Hewitts can bring back old times for Aqueduct connections

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – For years, owner Roddy Valente and trainer Bruce Levine had tremendous success claiming horses in Southern California, shipping them cross-country, and freshening them up for Aqueduct’s winter meet.

A combination of a change in California’s claiming rules and a depressed market slowed down the juggernaut a bit, but Valente and Levine may be ready to relive old times with Hewitts, who runs in Sunday’s multi-conditioned feature race at Aqueduct. Hewitts, a 7-year-old gelding, is one of six horses entered in a second-level allowance race that also has an optional claiming price of $50,000, for which Hewitts is being offered.

Valente and Levine claimed Hewitts for $32,000 last Nov. 20 at Hollywood Park. Trained by Jeff Mullins then, Hewitts ran a solid second, beaten one-half length as the 8-5 favorite.

Hewitts made his New York debut on Jan. 9 – in a similar spot as Sunday’s race – and pressed the pace before being overtaken by Winning Touch and Laysh Laysh Laysh. Hewitts was beaten a neck.

“I thought he ran really well, it was a tough race, and I didn’t think speed was golden that day,” Levine said.

Winning Touch, who was winning for the third time in four starts, earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for the win. Laysh Laysh Laysh came out of that race to win two races in a five-day span including a stakes at Laurel.

Sunday, Hewitts, who will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, is drawn outside of some of the other speed, including Driven by Solar and Smokin Hero.

The New York-bred Driven by Solar, trained by Todd Pletcher, has won 4 of 5 starts – all over the inner track – since Dec. 2, 2009. His only loss came to Winning Touch in a Dec. 4 first-level allowance race, a condition he cleared on Dec. 20 by nearly two lengths, earning a 100 Beyer Figure.

While he won his last race on the lead, Driven by Solar has also won from just off the pace as well.

“He’s a horse that generally is going to be pretty prominent early, but he’s not one-dimensional where he has to have the lead to be effective,” Pletcher said at Belmont on Friday.

Speight of Hand, second in this condition in his last two starts, figures to be running late under David Cohen.

Dixie Notion, Poppa’s Pick, and Smokin Hero complete the field.