12/27/2007 1:00AM

Leonardo stands out off last two starts

EmailOZONE PARK, N.Y. - Leonardo went into last year's Sunshine Millions Dash as one of the more intriguing runners in the 14-horse field following two wins and a narrow loss to begin his career. He was bet down to 7-2 third choice in the Sunshine Millions, then finished seventh in the 14-horse field.

Leonardo emerged from the race with a bone chip in his knee that needed to be surgically removed. In two starts following surgery, Leonardo ran two decent races. In two subsequent starts since adding blinkers, Leonardo has run two dynamite races.

If Leonardo duplicates either of his last two efforts Friday at Aqueduct, he most likely will capture the day's featured $59,000 third-level allowance race. The six-furlong race also has an optional claiming provision under which horses can be claimed for $75,000. Four of the eight runners - not Leonardo - are eligible to be claimed. Leonardo, a 3-year-old gelded son of Smoke Glacken, will be coupled in the wagering with Touchdown Kid.

In his second race following surgery, Leonardo was beaten two lengths when third in the Bergen County Stakes at the Meadowlands. Jockey Garrett Gomez got off the horse and told trainer John DeStefano Leonardo would benefit from blinkers.

"He would run, he'd stop - he's looking at the horses next to him," DeStefano recalled Gomez saying. "He felt he was very distracted and was adamant that I try blinkers."

In his first start in blinkers, Leonardo won a second-level allowance race at Belmont, rallying inside a bearing-out Blue Bullet and cruising to a 2 1/2-length victory in the mud.

In the Maria's Mon Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 14, Leonardo dueled with Blue Bullet, put that rival away, then was caught late by Roi Maudit, who won his third consecutive race.

DeStefano, vacationing in Peru this week, said reports from his barn are that Leonardo is "doing excellent."

DeStefano trains Leonardo for the Wachtel Stable, which also owns a piece of Touchdown Kid, who is trained by Richard Schosberg. Touchdown Kid, plagued by foot problems throughout his career, is 2 for 4 over the inner track. He has not raced since May.

Tony Dutrow entered Morine's Victory and Lord Snowdon but will run only one. Morine's Victory has won his last two starts while Lord Snowdon has won 3 of his last 5 starts.