08/30/2008 12:00AM

Labor Day reversal of fortune?


Puppeteer finished second in front of third-place Buckeye Buddy in the Independence Day Stakes on the Mountaineer Park turf course, but there is reason to believe Buckeye Buddy can reverse that decision in the $75,000 Labor Day Stakes on Monday at Mountaineer.

Since the Independence Day (run, a little awkwardly, on July 5), Buckeye Buddy has come back to finish third in the Aug. 2 West Virginia Speakers Cup, and since that race has posted three timed workouts at Turfway Park. Puppeteer, meanwhile, appears to have done little at all. He has not started since the Independence Day, and his PPs show one lonely half-mile breeze back on July 26 in the nearly two months since his most recent race.

Puppeteer joins Divine Wonder as a coupled entry from trainer Duane Knipe, part of a 10-horse field in the mile and 70-yard turf race that goes as race 1 on the Monday card. The Labor Day is immediately followed by the $75,000 Summer Finale, a turf race over the same distance for fillies and mares.

It’s not like Buckeye Buddy and Puppeteer have a tight grip on the Labor Day; their combined win record this year is 0-10. But for that matter, the Labor Day did not come up an especially strong race, and both horses fit on their best.

Throw into the mix Yankee Master, who has faced talented turf horses throughout his career. Trained for his first 17 starts by Linda Rice, Yankee Master (also winless in 2008) makes his first start in the care of trainer Athanasios Kokoronis.

Unbridled Wisdom enters on a three-race win streak, and captured his last start by more than 12 lengths. The downside: The win streak has come on dirt, and Unbridled Wisdom has compiled a 0-0-0 record in four grass starts.

Difficult to believe, but the Summer Finale looks even tougher to figure. This race drew a full field of 12, with two more horses on the also-eligible list, and may have Arlington Park-based Lemonline as a mild favorite over Beautiful Venue. Lemonline finished a close fourth in the Lady Canterbury Stakes last out, and was overmatched two starts ago in the Grade 3 Locust Grove at Churchill Downs, but at her best earlier this summer, she finished a close second to Grade 1 winner Forever Together in an Arlington Park overnight stakes race.