01/03/2008 12:00AM

Look for closers in both Gulfstream stakes


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Like Aqueduct's inner track, the main track at Gulfstream Park has a well-deserved reputation for carrying early speed. Nevertheless, the possibility of pace meltdowns may pave the way for late-rallying winners in both the Hutcheson for 3-year-olds and the Mr. Prospector Handicap for older sprinters.

The matchup in the Mr. Prospector is a battle among Finallymadeit, Mach Ride, and Keyed Entry, who all do their best running up front.

Finallymadeit started an amazing 19 times as a 3-year-old last year, and has been on the lead at the pace call in his last seven outings. After several all-out stretch drives, he is drawn inside and faces the prospect of a pressure-packed trip.

Mach Ride never fired in the Vosburgh after breaking slowly, but ran three big races last summer when blinkers were added and he was allowed to roll through the early fractions.

Keyed Entry has been idle since bearing out badly in the True North seven months ago, but has won all three of his starts at Gulfstream impressively, including the 2006 Hutcheson and last year's Deputy Minister off a similar absence. He runs his best races off workouts at Palm Beach Downs, but even at 100 percent he likely will be hard-used to avoid being caught wide into the turn.

Grand Champion, the Fall Highweight winner, and the late-blooming 4-year-old Roi Maudit are stalkers who should be nicely situated off the early fray.

The Hutcheson is a wildly competitive event in which seven of the 10 entrants have similar Beyer Speed Figure tops in the low 90s. Among them is the maiden Tiz It, who is under the gun from the inside post but seemingly the speed of the speed based on his first two starts.

Tiz It was a solid second in his debut to Massive Drama, subsequent winner of the Hollywood Prevue and a close third in the CashCall Futurity. Though beaten at 1-2 in his second try, Tiz It dueled through an exceptionally fast pace with eventual winner Accredit and finished well clear of all others in another promising performance.

Tiz It figures to make things tough up front for Grand Minstrel and Smooth Air as they attempt to keep pace, and they may all be running on fumes as they approach the seventh and final furlong.

Halo Najib and Cool Coal Man turn back from 1 1/16 miles after dueling in the Kentucky Jockey Club, and either might benefit from that route conditioning in this long sprint. Halo Najib fared much better under rating tactics in his first two starts, including a half-length loss in the Iroquois to Remsen winner Court Vision, and may rebound quickly with a better setup.

Count Fleet variables mean no strong opinion

Important stakes horses don't generally winter in the Northeast, but the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct - which will be run for the 33rd time on Saturday - marked the 3-year-old debut of Smarty Jones in 2004 (is it really four years already?), so it's important to keep an open mind as another season begins.

If nothing else, the Saturday's Count Fleet is competitive on paper. Six of the seven entrants are closely matched based on their formative races, and the outsider Atta Boy Andy need only improve a few lengths from a last-out allowance win at Philadelphia Park to contend.

My preliminary betting line, in post order, hints this won't be the place where I take a stand in the late pick four: Red Reef (8-1), Spanky Fischbein (5-1), Run With Me (6-1), Atta Boy Andy (12-1), Barrier Reef (5-1), Roman Emperor (6-1), and Giant Moon (4-1).

At the heart of things is a rematch between the New York-breds Giant Moon and Spanky Fischbein, who dueled around the track in the recent Damon Runyon and seem likely to hook up for the early lead once again. Giant Moon tends to convey the impression he's at the end of his rope because his riders really look busy during the middle fractions, but he has stubbornly refused to let anyone get by in the stretch. Giant Moon moves from the rail to the outside post, however, and Spanky Fischbein breaks from post 2 and gets a favorable weight shift.

The work in progress is Barrier Reef, a $350,000 purchase in training last March, who was a last-to-first maiden winner despite racing very greenly four weeks ago. Barrier Reef earned a competitive figure winning that mile race, but the number looks even better considering he ran closer to 1 1/16 miles after blowing the clubhouse turn and continuing wide. Second-out juveniles rarely overcome that kind of a trip on the inner track, so one would think he has considerable room for improvement.