02/14/2009 1:00AM

Levine has a recent arrival


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - For many winters, owner Roddy Valente and trainer Bruce Levine enjoyed great success claiming horses from Southern California and bringing them east for Aqueduct's winter meet.

But a rule change in California that states horses can't leave California for 60 days after a meet from which they have been claimed has virtually taken that angle away from Valente and Levine. On Monday, however, Levine and Valente will send out Band of Thunder right off the plane from California in a third-level allowance race at Aqueduct.

With the Hollie Hughes Stakes for New York-breds failing to fill, this optional claiming heat serves as the Presidents Day feature at the Big A.

Valente and Vincent Scuderi claimed Band of Thunder for $60,000 at Del Mar on Aug. 10 and turned him over to trainer Mike Mitchell. While Band of Thunder would have been eligible to leave California in early November, he had been running well enough on the turf to stay out west, Levine said.

But Band of Thunder also has won 5 of 11 starts on dirt, so after he finished third in a $50,000 claimer over Santa Anita's synthetic surface, the decision was made to ship east.

"He got off the plane three days ago. He's doing good, we put him in, and we're going to run him," Levine said.

Band of Thunder faces an interesting group of challengers from all around the country. Forest Attack, trained by Mike Maker, hasn't run since finishing fifth as the favorite in the Claiming Crown Rapid Transit in August at Canterbury Park. Last May, he was good enough to come within a neck of First Defence, who won the Grade 1 Forego last summer at Saratoga.

Kaper Lake has won two straight allowance races at Philadelphia Park since being claimed by Tony Dutrow. Kaper Lake did win an allowance race over the inner track 14 months ago.

David Jacobson has the coupled entry of Temecula Creek, who hasn't been out since last October, and Fujita, whom Jacobson claimed for $75,000 from Todd Pletcher last out.

West Coast Flier, a popular item at the claim box, is not offered for the optional claiming price in his return to the Gary Contessa barn.

Cayman Condo, trained by Scott Lake, finished fourth to Suave Jazz in the Fire Plug Stakes last out. Suave Jazz ran poorly as the favorite in the allowance feature here Friday.