10/23/2008 12:00AM

Kodiak Kowboy primed for Sport Page


ELMONT, N.Y. - A pair of Grade 3 stakes for males 3 and up highlight a seven-race card on Breeders' Cup Saturday at Belmont Park - the $150,000 Sport Page Handicap at seven furlongs and the $100,000 Knickerbocker, scheduled for the inner turf at 1 1/8 miles.

Kodiak Kowboy and Merchant Marine, third here in the Vosburgh and Jockey Club Gold Cup, respectively, four weeks ago, head a field of 10 in the 56th running of the Sport Page.

Kodiak Kowboy ran third in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and won the Grade 2 Amsterdam in his first start for trainer Larry Jones less three months ago.

After the victory in the Amsterdam, with a 108 Beyer Speed Figure, Kodiak Kowboy had major trouble when fifth in the King's Bishop, but rebounded with a sharp performance in the Vosburgh facing older rivals for the first time. Trailing the field on a sloppy and speed-favoring track, he rallied in the stretch to finish third, beaten less than a length by Breeders' Cup Sprint contenders Black Seventeen and Fabulous Strike.

"He kind of hooked a tough trip in the King's Bishop, but he ran very well in the Vosburgh," said Jones.

Kodiak Kowboy drew post 8.

Merchant Marine, whose only two defeats from seven starts at Belmont both came in Grade 1 races, drew the rail. A clear third in the Gold Cup after chasing the pace, the Allen Jerkens-trained Merchant Marine was an overnight stakes winner going 7 1/2 furlongs opening weekend of the fall meet, and should relish turning back to a long sprint.

Contenders returning from layoffs include Aquino, idle since a stylish allowance win Travers Day; Eternal Star, who set the pace and finished fourth in the Forego last out; He's So Chic, who makes his first start since chasing Breeders' Cup Sprint contender Fatal Bullet at Woodbine on July 20; and Ravalo, a four-time stakes winner this year who has trained swiftly since setting the pace in the Leeward over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle Downs.

The Knickerbocker field of nine is headed by Interpatation, Strike a Deal, and Proudinsky, the 2-4-5 finishers in last month's Turf Classic Invitational behind three-time Gradeo1 winner and Breeders' Cup Turf contender Grand Couturier.

Formal Decree, an overnight stakes winner on this course and at this trip on Oct. 2, drew the rail for Godolphin Racing and trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who have compiled a 6-1-0 record from 12 starters heading into the fall meet's final weekend.

Other contenders include Operation Red Dawn, third in the Kelso last out; Buffalo Man, winner of the Red Bank two starts back; and Dry Martini, a multiple graded stakes winner on dirt.

Saturday is Evening Attire Day. The recently retired 10-year-old gelding, who became a fan favorite through nine seasons of racing, will be honored between races along with owners Joe and Mary Grant and T.J. Kelly, as well as trainers Pat Kelly and Tim Kelly. Fans can take photos of Evening Attire in the saddling area before the ceremony.