06/08/2009 11:00PM

Martin a big player in late pick four


ELMONT, N.Y. - Scattered thunderstorms are in the forecast, so Thursday's all-turf late pick four is at the mercy of Mother Nature.

The highlights are allowance races scheduled for the Widener course: Race 6 is a $46,000 second-level route at 1 1/16 miles for New York-breds, while race 8 is an open $45,000 first-level sprint at seven furlongs.

The familiar light blue and white silks of meet-leading owner Flying Zee Stables could figure prominently in both races, as Golden Weekend and Fairway Drive step up in sharp form for trainer Carlos Martin.

Golden Weekend has notched both of his wins by breaking on top and leading past every pole at six furlongs on the inner turf. The 4-year-old will try to stretch his speed an additional furlong in race 8 after wiring a $35,000 restricted claimers opening day, April 29. He earned a Beyer Figure of 89 that day, the top last-out turf figure in the race.

"A little extra time between starts is to his advantage," said Martin, whose nine wins put him one off the lead as the meet approaches the halfway point. "We stretched him out in a stake at Saratoga last year and he was beaten less than two lengths, so he should have enough left in his tank. I'd be more concerned about the condition of the turf course, because both of his wins were on very firm ground."

Golden Weekend will need to out-sprint Sydney Road and Strike Again for the early lead, and then brace for late challenges from Big Jerome, Dr. Smarty Jack, Right of Way, and Great Emperor.

Fairway Drive, meanwhile, has won just 2 of his first 28 starts, but has improved to win 3 of his last 4 since transforming into a deep closer, including paired Beyer tops in his first two starts of the season.

If Fairway Drive gets in from the also-eligible list in race 6, and Martin opts to run the 6-year-old back on short rest after a hard-fought win against open $25,000 claimers last Wednesday, he fits very well in his present form.

Contenders in the main body include Admiral Bird, Dantastic, Gold Vendetta, Kutais, and Imperial River.