Updated on 09/16/2011 9:56AM

Levine dreams of Millions


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Things are going so well for trainer Bruce Levine these days that someone gave him $10 Monday morning to purchase lottery tickets. "We'll split the winnings," the man said.

It seems like everything Levine has touched recently has turned to gold. Coyote Lakes, Levine's golden oldie, won his third consecutive Gallant Fox Handicap, at age 8, on Saturday at Aqueduct. On Sunday, Levine scored with Svea Dahl, who won the $50,000 Carousel Stakes at Laurel Park.

Though Levine went 0 for 2 at Aqueduct on Sunday, he is 7 for 23 at the inner track meet, trailing only Gary Contessa (9 wins) in the standings. Levine finished 2002 as the fifth leading trainer in New York with 58 wins.

Levine will now look to hit a larger jackpot when he ships Svea Dahl to Santa Anita on Jan. 6 for the $750,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff on Jan. 25. Svea Dahl, who won the Grade 3 Turnback the Alarm Handicap in November, ran in the Carousel after an illness forced her to miss the Bayakoa Handicap at Hollywood Park in mid-December. Levine said missing that race may turn out to be a blessing.

"If she had had a hard race it might have knocked her out," Levine said. "It seems like [the Carousel] was an easy race for her."

Monday, Levine was still beaming over Coyote Lakes's performance in the Gallant Fox and was already plotting a course for a fourth consecutive victory in the 1 5/8-mile race next December. Levine said Coyote Lakes will likely make two more starts this winter before being turned out at Halycon Hammock Farm in Ocala, Fla., where the gelding has vacationed the last four years under the supervision of Hal Hatch.

One race Levine is thinking about for Coyote Lakes is the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Laurel on Feb. 16. Levine figures the Campbell, run at nine furlongs, is more suitable for Coyote Lakes than the Aqueduct Handicap, run at a 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 18.

"He can't beat the Snake Mountains and the Ground Storms," Levine said. "Down there, I think he can run with a little lesser quality."

And it's (all) good!

Ted Banker, a former New York Jets offensive lineman, had plenty to celebrate at 4:30 Sunday afternoon.

Just as his 4-year-old colt Mr. Baskets was crossing the finish line first in Aqueduct's 2002 finale, New England Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked a game-winning field goal to beat the Miami Dolphins. That victory left the Jets an opportunity to make the playoffs with a victory against Green Bay, which they achieved, 42-17.

"My horse wins and simultaneously the Patriots kick the game-winning field goal," Banker said. "It was incredible."

Banker also played for the old Cleveland Browns. The latter-day Browns also made the playoffs because the Jets won. Banker's career ended when he blew out his knee in the 1990 AFC championship game, a 37-21 Cleveland loss to Denver.

Mr. Baskets is the only horse Banker owns. He and trainer Scott Everett claimed him from Bill Mott on Dec. 9, 2001, for $25,000. In 17 starts this year, Mr. Baskets went 3-2-4 and earned $85,095.

Banker hopes both Mr. Baskets and the Jets will continue their winning ways. Early in the football season, when the Jets were 1-3, Banker was in Las Vegas where he plunked down $200 on the Jets at 40-1 to win the Super Bowl.

"I think [quarterback Chad] Pennington is going to take them to the Super Bowl," Banker said. "I don't know if it's this year or not, but he will take them to a Super Bowl."

A thorn on Tesher's rosy December

Trainer Howie Tesher did not share in Banker's joy.

Not only did Tesher's beloved Dolphins blow a chance at making the playoffs, but Tesher's Mount Intrepid finished a troubled third, beaten less than a length, in Sunday's Alex M. Robb Handicap for New York-breds.

"He was in traffic, he couldn't get clear," Tesher said. "When he finally did find room [jockey Julian Pimentel] couldn't get him to run because he was lugging in. He was two in front just past the wire."

It was one of the few bad days Tesher had in December. After winning just five races from 119 starters in the first 11 months of the year, Tesher went 4 for 10 in December over the inner track with a second and two thirds.

Tesher has some high hopes for Stalwart Bull, a son of Holy Bull who last Friday won a two-turn maiden race by a half-length in his second start. Stalwart Bull is a half-brother to Stalwart Member and Mount Intrepid.

Tesher will have seven horses in New York and three in Florida this winter. Tesher is still in New York at this time because his assistant, Uma Sherren, is recovering from knee surgery.

Claiming, high and low

In just two short months, Michael Tau, who runs under the name Two Kings Stable, has discovered the highs and lows of the claiming game.

On Sept. 28, Tau and trainer Richard Schosberg claimed Literary Light for $50,000. Literary Light is 2 for 2 for her new connections and may try for her first stakes win in Wednesday's Interborough Handicap.

On Dec. 21, Tau claimed Linda's Pal for $50,000 and the filly broke down during the running of the race. Linda's Pal suffered a slab fracture, and underwent surgery, but will never race again. Schosberg hopes to sell her as a broodmare prospect.

In between, Tau and Schosberg privately purchased Inky Lawson, who was beaten a nose and a head in her only start for them, but who was claimed for $35,000 by Scott Lake.

"We've had the real good, the not so good, and the real bad," Schosberg said.

Schosberg said he may scratch Literary Light from the Interborough and wait for the Correction Handicap on Feb. 1. Schosberg had entered Literary Light in an allowance race for last week that didn't fill.

* Schosberg's big horse, Affirmed Success, breezed four furlongs in 48.60 seconds Monday morning over Belmont's training track. Schosberg is considering several spots for the 9-year-old gelding's return from a July layoff, including the $75,000 Paumonok Handicap on Jan. 25.