11/30/2009 12:00AM

Levine plots Derby path for Buddy's Saint

Barbara D. Livingston
Buddy's Saint, a 4 3/4-length winner of Saturday's Remsen Stakes, has trainer Bruce Levine thinking Derby.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Ordinarily, at this time of year, Bruce Levine is gearing up for the long, cold New York winter at Aqueduct, where he has been a runner-up in the trainer standings to Gary Contessa the last three years.

While Levine will still be a major presence at Aqueduct this winter, he also is gearing up for what he hopes will be a trip down the Triple Crown trail with Buddy's Saint, who stamped himself a Kentucky Derby prospect with a 4 3/4-length victory in Saturday's . Buddy's Saint will be part of a small string Levine will have based at Gulfstream Park that will also include The Mailet, who tripped up Sunday's Grade 3 Miesque Stakes for juvenile fillies at 11-1 at Hollywood Park.

Buddy's Saint emerged from his victory in the Remsen in good order, Levine said Monday morning, and he will likely ship to Gulfstream Park in mid-December. Levine's tentative plan calls for Buddy's Saint to run in the Holy Bull on Jan. 23 and the Fountain of Youth on Feb. 20 before returning to New York for the Wood Memorial on April 3.

"It's just a question of whether I'm going to do two or three" preps, Levine said. "I haven't quite figured it out yet."

Levine does believe Buddy's Saint is a serious contender for the spring classics. Though the colt earned only an 82 Beyer Speed Figure for the Remsen - compared to the 101 he got in the Nashua - Levine was extremely happy with the race. Buddy's Saint stalked a moderate pace, zipped past the two leaders at the five-sixteenths pole, and then got to loafing a little bit in the stretch under Jose Lezcano.

"To me, there was a lot of gas in the tank," Levine said Monday. "The thing that probably impressed me the most, besides him just kind of gliding down the backside, was that turning for home he kind of pulled himself up, a horse came to him, [Lezcano] kind of waved his stick at him he re-broke. Then he kind of throttled him down again then a horse come a little bit and he re-broke again. For a 2-year-old, third start, to run like that . . . glad I have him and glad I don't have to run against him."

Levine has never started a horse in the Derby. In 1993, he ran the New York-bred Koluctoo Jimmy Al in the Preakness, where he finished 10th of 11.

"I don't really get these horses," said Levine, who trains Buddy's Saint for owner Eli Lomita's Kingfield Stables. "Just to have one is unbelievable. It's not like I start with a whole lot of them that could be that kind."

Meanwhile, Levine's good fortune continued Sunday at Hollywood when The Mailet won the Miesque by a length over In the Slips. Levine had always thought highly of The Mailet, even after two poor efforts on dirt. The Mailet is now 2 for 2 on turf.

Levine said that prior to an Oct. 4 maiden race on dirt he told owner Jose Singer that The Mailet was a stakes horse. After a 51 1/2-length defeat, Singer said to Levine "Are you sure," Levine recalled. "I said 'Jose I'm telling you this is a stakes horse.' I run her back two weeks later on the grass, she ran huge."

Flashing retired; 'Haven' to return

Flashing's gate-to-wire victory in Saturday's put the finishing touches on a terrific 2009 in North America for Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Stable. The stable won eight Grade 1 races in New York.

Though Flashing's performance in the Gazelle raised the prospect of keeping her in training for 2010, the decision was made to retire the filly, according to Godolphin's assistant trainer Rick Mettee.

Flashing also won the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga.

"She probably overachieved winning the two Grade 1's," Mettee said.

Flashing was joined on a van to Kentucky on Monday by Pyro, Vineyard Haven, and Sara Louise. While Pyro also will be retired, Vineyard Haven and Sara Louise will spend the winter at Keeneland and be pointed to 2010 campaigns.

Vineyard Haven finished third in Saturday's . Those two will get some time off and resume training in the spring under the tutelage of Johnny Burke before rejoining Godolphin's Belmont operation in late April.

Mettee said that Godolphin-owned runners Midshipman, Regal Ransom, Gayego, and Justenuffhumor are in the midst of a quarantine stint in Ocala, Fla. That quartet is scheduled to ship to Dubai on Dec. 17.

Bribon will return in 2010

Bribon, second to Kodiak Kowboy in Saturday's Cigar Mile, will winter in south Florida before hopefully defending his title in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in May, trainer Robert Ribaudo said.

"It'd be great," Ribaudo said about trying the Met Mile again. "I don't know if he can maintain that caliber, but that'd certainly be something to think about."

Ribaudo said he could run Bribon a time or two on the turf at Gulfstream Park. Bribon won a turf allowance at Saratoga and was beaten only four lengths by Ventura in the Woodbine Mile.

"Those grass races were decent enough that he could compete, and they don't seem to knock him out as much," Ribaudo said.

Weaver eyes Oaks with Tizahit

Trainer George Weaver wasn't surprised when Tizahit ran a disappointing fourth in the Grade 3 Tempted Stakes on Nov. 7. The one-turn configuration of the race didn't play into his filly's strength, Weaver said, but the race would serve as a useful prep for the Demoiselle.

Weaver's theory was proven correct when Tizahit won the , her second victory from three starts around two turns.

"I told the owners our best chance to win the Demoiselle was to run in the Tempted as opposed to working her three times," Weaver said. "She's been a little bit green for a long time and she tends to idle. If you don't tell her to go, she'll get into idle mode."

Now, Weaver hopes to get Tizahit into Kentucky Oaks mode. Weaver said Tizahit will soon join his stable in south Florida, where she may run once or twice en route to a possible start in the Oaks on April 30.

"My goal would be the Oaks, hopefully she'll take us there," Weaver said.

Borrowing Base eyes Gallant Fox

Trainer Pat Quick didn't care that Sunday's meant his 6-year-old New York-bred mare would have to face the boys. He only knew it meant she'd get to run 1 3/4 miles on the dirt.

"It's the distance," Quick said. "She moves way up in class as the races get longer."

Quick was right as Borrowing Base ran down odds-on favorite Atoned to win the Power Lunch by three-quarters of a length. The Power Lunch was designed as a prep for the Gallant Fox at 1 5/8 miles on Dec. 31, and Borrowing Base will make another start against the boys in that spot.

"I was trying all year to get her in long races," Quick said. "The only ones I could get her in were grass, grass, grass. She lost three stakes by a total of 1 3/4 lengths, so she deserved to win one."