03/19/2010 12:00AM

Much the Best well-rested for return


OLDSMAR, Fla. - Much the Best returns from an eight-month layoff when he tops a field of seven in a $32,000 optional claimer at six furlongs Saturday at Tampa Bay Downs.

Much the Best has not raced since July 15, when he scored a three-quarter-length victory in a six-furlong allowance at Monmouth. After stalking the pace early, he overcame trouble in the turn, then ran down the leader to score a narrow victory, earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, one below his career-best.

Much the Best won in his second career start at Aqueduct last spring, then ran third, second, and third in his next three races while racing either in front or close to rapid early paces. He will make his first start for trainer Joe Catanese III and will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister Jr.

Among the top challengers to Much the Best are the Jamie Ness-trained pair of For All Who Conga and Carson's Hawk, who finished second and third here last time out in a seven-furlong allowance.

For All Who Conga was claimed from his last start, in which he rallied from last to finish second in a rapidly run seven-furlong race. Carson's Hawk was third in the same race, which was his first since December and first since being claimed by the Ness barn.

Same Day Pleasure could also pose a threat. Trained by Gerald Bennett, he won two stakes against Massachusetts-breds at Suffolk in September - the six-furlong Africian Prince and the mile-and-70-yard John Kirby - but has not raced since.

Saturday's card also features a pair of 3-year-old races.

In race 3, Gesu tops a field of six in a $75,000 optional claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs. Gesu pulled a 22-1 upset in the Inaugural Stakes here Dec. 9, when he rallied after being taken up in traffic and scored by a half-length. He has struggled in his last two starts, finishing seventh in the Pasco and sixth in a five-furlong allowance at Gulfstream.

Also in the field is My Man Marty, who pulled away late to win his debut by 3 3/4 lengths Feb. 14. He is trained by Alan Seewald, whose barn is winning at a 29 percent clip this meet.

The 10th race features 3-year-old fillies racing for a $50,000 tag at a mile on turf.

Leading the field of 10 are She'sfitforaking, who won her maiden last time out when outfitted with blinkers; Silver Prism, who tries the turf for the first time in her third career start; and Moments Away, who makes her second start against winners after running fourth, beaten two lengths, against similar company last time out.

Silver Prism won her debut after vying for the lead much of the way. In her last start, she was second to odds-on favorite Island Time in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance in which Island Time came within three-fifths of a second of the track record.

Island Time is expected to make her next start against Florida-bred 3-year-old stakes runners in the Sophomore FIllies Sprint stake on Florida Cup day.