07/30/2008 12:00AM

Momentum on Starticus's side

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Starticus, an up-and-coming turf sprinter, gets a serious class call here Friday in the $87,900 allowance prep for the Play the King Stakes.

The Play the King is a Grade 2, $200,000 turf stakes for 3-year-olds and upward at seven furlongs here Aug. 23, and Friday's 6 1/2-furlong prep attracted six entrants.

Starticus, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding, has been on a tear this year with three front-running wins in as many starts under allowance terms.

Trained by Ralph Biamonte and ridden by Corey Fraser, Starticus led off with a Polytrack win at 5 1/2 furlongs and followed with turf scores going 6 1/2 furlongs and six furlongs under his next two conditions.

In his latest, Starticus was a comfortable winner of a third-level allowance with an $80,000 claiming option, with his clocking of 1:07.39 establishing a track record.

Those looking to bring Starticus down to earth on Friday include The Great Caruso and Wollemi Pine, the two-three finishers in the Grade 3, $200,000 Highlander at six furlongs on turf here June 22.

The Great Caruso, a Florida-bred 4-year-old trained by Malcolm Pierce, was beaten three-quarters of a length by the talented shipper Heros Reward, who had finished second in last year's Highlander and returned to win the $500,000 Nearctic in the fall.

Pierce sent out The Great Caruso to win a first-level allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs on turf at Fair Grounds this winter, then watched him set a track record of 56.42 seconds for five furlongs on Polytrack in his local season debut under second-level allowance terms April 5.

The Great Caruso's effort in the Highlander, his first appearance in 11 weeks, produced a career-high Beyer of 100 under jockey Patrick Husbands, who retains the mount.

"He kind of turned it around a little bit in New Orleans - he's just a year older, more mature," said Pierce. "I've just tried to keep him fresh."

Wollemi Pine, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old trained by Ian Black, had won the six-furlong Highlander prep prior to being beaten 2 3/4 lengths in a rallying Highlander effort under returning rider Emma-Jayne Wilson.

"He seems to have improved quite considerably from 3 to 4," said Black. "He's in good order, looking to run."

Just Rushing, who finished second in last year's Play the King, returned from an eight-month layoff to run third in the restricted Ontario Jockey Club at seven furlongs on turf here July 19.

Jim McAleney retains the mount on Just Rushing, who is trained by Sid Attard.