05/27/2008 12:00AM

Lucarno starting year at Sandown

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Lucarno, winner of last year's St. Leger Stakes, will make his seasonal debut at Sandown Park on Thursday in a renewal of the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes that comes very close to having Group 1 cachet.

Worth a mere $99,000, the 1 1/4-mile contest has also attracted Maraahel, a multiple Group 2 winner who narrowly missed taking his fourth consecutive Group 3 Huxley Stakes at Chester earlier this month, and Happy Boy, a Group 2 winner on turf in Brazil who was snapped up by Godolphin after his nine-length romp in the one-mile Group 3 Maktoum Challenge on dirt at Nad Al Sheba.

A Pennsylvania-bred son of Dynaformer trained by John Gosden for owner George Strawbridge, Lucarno had prepped for his victory in the 1 3/4-mile St. Leger with a win in York's 1 1/2-mile Group 2 Great Voltigeur Stakes. Cutting back to 10 furlongs might be asking a bit much of him, but he did win a listed race over the Brigadier Gerard distance at Newmarket last May.

Jimmy Fortune will ride Lucarno, who must spot his 14 rivals two to 10 pounds.

An Alzao 7-year-old trained by Michael Stoute, Maraahel is equally adept at 10 and 12 furlongs, while the versatile Happy Boy, who has been out of action since Jan. 17 with a leg infection, acts on either dirt or turf anywhere between a mile and a mile and a half.

Passage of Time, fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, and Regime, winner of the 1 1/4-mile Group 3 Mooresbridge Stakes at the Curragh on May 5, are not without their chances.