04/21/2006 12:00AM

Hoover boils down to three mud-lovers


Sprinters with an affinity for a sloppy surface might hold a distinct advantage in Sunday's $75,000 Hoover Stakes at Pimlico.

Based on forecasts that call for more than an inch of rain on Saturday and the likelihood of more rain Sunday morning, Pimlico's main track will almost assuredly be wet for the six-furlong Hoover.

So although five of the seven older sprinters in the field finished first or second in their last start, proven mud form should give a substantial advantage to The Student, Favalora, and Abbondanza.

At age 7, The Student has shown no signs of slowing down. Following a seven-win season in 2005, he has gone 2 for 3 this year, earning Beyer Speed Figures of 101 and 100 in his most recent two races, both over the inner track at Aqueduct. Over wet surfaces, The Student is 2 for 4, including a two-length win in a sprint last June at Delaware Park.

Favalora has won three straight at Philadelphia Park since he was claimed for $10,000 by trainer Eli Bentacourt in January. A 4-year-old, Favalora most recently wired high-priced optional claimers in the mud, earning a career-best 95 Beyer.

Abbondanza may have a tactical advantage. Unlike The Student and Favalora, who both do their best running up front and are susceptible to a speed duel, Abbondanza is a stalker. A multiple stakes winner, his best race this year came in January, when he sat and pounced to win the six-furlong Fire Plug at Laurel with a 100 Beyer.

Abbondanza is 2 for 3 over wet surfaces. The last time he raced over a sloppy track, Abbondanza beat optional claimers at Pimlico in May 2005.

The field also includes P. Kerney, who defeated Abbondanza by 5 1/4 lengths a month ago in the Northern Wolf, and Gold Cluster, a deep closer who came from 13 lengths back to draw off by seven with a career-best 98 Beyer last time out.