03/17/2010 12:00AM

Mr. Fantasy makes return after surgery

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Mr. Fantasy appeared on his way to becoming a significant 3-year-old last year when a knee chip derailed his campaign. After 11 months away from the races, the graded-stakes winning New York-bred is set to make his 4-year-old debut in a third-level allowance that serves as Gulfstream Park's feature on a 10-race Thursday program.

Mr. Fantasy won 3 of his first 4 starts, including the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct. He was entered in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont on Memorial Day, but had to scratch because of injury. The chip was surgically removed, and Mr. Fantasy was given ample time to recover with an eye toward a 2010 campaign.

"We know there are plenty of horses that show the same amount of talent [following surgery] and there are some that don't," said Terry Finley, head of West Point Thoroughbreds, which owns Mr. Fantasy along with Donald Brooks and Nick Cammarano. "We just don't know."

Mr. Fantasy, who was transferred to trainer Mike Hushion after West Point and Kiaran McLaughlin split last fall, has been working regularly since Jan. 23. He has breezed nine times leading up to this, including a half-mile move in 48.80 seconds on Sunday at Palm Meadows.

"I'm pretty comfortable," Hushion said when asked how fit Mr. Fantasy was for his return.

Ramon Dominguez, who entered this week with 3,996 career victories, is coming to Gulfstream on Thursday to ride.

While Mr. Fantasy is coming off an 11-month layoff, Not for Money has not been out in 22 months for trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. When last seen, Not for Money won a third-level allowance at Belmont on May 23, 2008, earning a 112 Beyer Speed Figure. He is entered for the optional claiming price of $80,000 in this heat and may find the six furlongs of this race a bit shorter than he prefers.

Based on his 3-for-4 record at Gulfstream Park, the Allen Jerkens-trained Formidable is the major threat to Mr. Fantasy. Formidable won a second-level allowance here Jan. 13, a day on which Jerkens said jockey Edgar Prado had to move a little sooner than he preferred.

"He asked him to go because he was inside and didn't want to get shut off," Jerkens said. "He had to use him a little more than he wanted."

With Prado aboard Not for Money, Jose Lezcano picks up the mount on Formidable. Lezcano has won twice aboard Formidable.