04/04/2002 12:00AM

Mike goes for three-peat in Babst


GROVE CITY, Ohio - Down Thepike Mike will attempt to win the Edward Babst Memorial Handicap for the third straight year Saturday at Beulah Park. Down Thepike Mike, who returns from an 11-month layoff, faces 11 other Ohio-breds in the $40,000, six-furlong race.

Down Thepike Mike began his 2001 campaign with a 1 3/4-length victory in the Babst on April 7. He returned one month later and took the Quick Step Handicap at Thistledown. He has been sidelined since.

An 8-year-old gelding trained by Michael Nance, Down Thepike Mike has been at the top of the Ohio-bred sprint ranks for several years. He captured the Best of Ohio Sprint Championship in both 1999 and 2000. Overall, he sports a record of 18-5-3 from 31 starts and has $379,901 in earnings.

Regular rider Julio Felix will be aboard Down Thepike Mike in the Babst for owner M. Y. Stable Inc. Down Thepike Mike carries 124 pounds and will concede from six to 16 pounds to his rivals.

The main threats to Down Thepike Mike in the Babst, Fax a Freddy and Blame It on Ruby, both are likely better around two turns than sprinting.

Blame It on Ruby, a consistent 4-year-old son of Sky Classic, hit the board in seven of his eight races last year. His lone off-the-board effort was a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Lafayette at Keeneland last April.

Blame It on Ruby won his only start this year, a one-mile allowance on the turf at Tampa on Feb. 28. Trainer Austin Smith has given jockey Luis Gonzalez the call aboard Blame It on Ruby, who will carry 116 pounds.

Fax a Freddy, a multiple stakes winner, finished second, beaten a neck in last October's 1 1/4-mile Best of Ohio Endurance Championship here. He has 11 career wins and has earned $326,000.

Bill Napier trains Fax a Freddy, who will be ridden by Joddie Fortner at 118 pounds.

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