02/24/2007 1:00AM

'Hotstuf' fires off long layoff

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - Despite breaking through the gate prior to the start, Hotstufanthensome unleashed a strong run down the middle of the course in the stretch and came away with a half-length victory over a fast-closing Classic Campaign in Saturday's $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup before 5,256 fans.

Under a well-judged ride by Rajiv Maragh, who won two races on the program, Hotstufanthensome covered 1 1/16 miles over a firm turf course in 1:41.24 to post his 10th win, and ninth on the turf.

A 7-year-old gelding, Hotstufanthensome ($11.80) was making his first start since finishing second to Breeders' Cup Mile winner Miesque's Approval in the Grade 3 Red Bank last September. He popped the starting gate doors prior to the start, then settled in fourth behind a fast pace set by Cherokee Prince, who cut out fractions of 23.66 seconds, 47.29, and 1:10.80 while being followed closely by longshot Demeteor and Defer.

Turning into the stretch, Defer challenged Cherokee Prince from the outside while Maragh and Hotstufanthensome burst from between rivals and went after the leaders three wide. Defer led briefly but Hotstufanthensome ranged up outside to gain a short advantage, then was all out to turn back Classic Campaign, who was flying on the outside under Daniel Centeno.

Classic Campaign finished a half-length ahead of Defer, who in turn hit the wire three-quarters of a length over Baron Von Trap.

Trained by Norman Pointer, Hotstufanthensome earned $90,000.