06/29/2006 11:00PM

Navesink classiest in Van Clief


Navesink, a multiple graded stakes winner early in his career who has raced only five times since June 2003, brings a ton of back class into Sunday's $60,000 Daniel Van Clief Stakes at Colonial Downs.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race drew a field of nine older Virginia-breds.

In his younger days, Navesink was good enough to win the Grade 2 Jamaica and the Grade 3 Kent. Now 8, he hasn't faced stakes-caliber horses since finishing eighth in the $60,000 Battlefield at Monmouth in June 2005.

Trainer Alan Goldberg dropped Navesink in for a $25,000 tag last time out June 18, and Navesink responded with a 2 1/4-length victory, his first in three years. The 89 Beyer Speed Figure that Navesink earned compares favorably to the figures earned by his rivals in the Van Clief.

A pair of deep closers, Run the Light and Love Conquers, will be trying to make a late run at Navesink.

Run the Light, second in last year's Van Clief, has been trying to clear his second-level allowance condition since June 2005. His only victory in seven starts the last 13 months came when he rallied from last in a field of 12 to beat $45,000 claimers at Gulfstream Park in January.

Love Conquers is 2 for 3 over Colonial's grass, including a second-place finish two weeks ago against similar competition. His two wins on turf came in back-to-back starts at Colonial last summer.

Ouagadougou, 0 for 6 on turf, is far more accomplished on dirt, where he has won seven races and more than $235,700, but he did run well enough to finish third, 2 1/4 lengths behind Run the Light, in the 2005 Van Clief.

Much the same holds true for Marina Minister. A 6-year-old, his best finish in 12 grass starts is a third in a second-level allowance in October 2003, but he was fourth in last year's Van Clief, on near even terms with Ouagadougou.

Delaware: Cat Criminal eyes Leonard Richards

In his first start against older horses last weekend, Cat Criminal didn't run quite as fast or win quite as easily as he did when he crushed a field of maidens by 10 3/4 lengths and earned a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in his 3-year-old debut. But trainer Steve Klesaris was nevertheless thrilled with Cat Criminal's wire-to-wire 1 1/4-length victory - worth a 93 Beyer - in a first-level allowance at Delaware Park last Saturday.

Klesaris was so impressed, in fact, that he said he intends to point Cat Criminal to the Grade 3, $300,000 Leonard Richards Stakes on July 16 at Delaware.

"There was a lot left in the tank through the lane," Klesaris said. "Right now, we are pointing him toward the Leonard Richards. If all goes correctly over the next couple of weeks, that is the direction we are going to go."

An ankle injury sustained in his career debut last summer at Saratoga prevented Cat Criminal, a son of Tale of the Cat, from racing more than once as a 2-year-old. With just three career starts, he remains a work in progress.

"He is still green and he is learning with each start," Klesaris said. "He faced older horses, and obviously it was a better test than his maiden. His last race was no doubt a positive stepping-stone to his next against straight 3-year-old stake winners."

* Unraced until nearly halfway through his 5-year-old season, Song for the Best made a good first impression when he finally got to run.

A Kentucky-bred son of Unbridled's Song trained by Rodney Jenkins for Centennial Farm, Song for the Best romped by 9 3/4 lengths, earning a 92 Beyer, in a maiden special weight six-furlong sprint at Delaware on June 19.

"He is about 17 hands and he just had some physical problems that kept him from running," Jenkins said when asked about Song for the Best's inactivity. "I had him ready last year and he pulled high check ligament. I recommended that he be given more time.

"The owners are great people and they never rush them," he said. "If it takes forever, they hang in there."

Jenkins said he will likely look to place Song for the Best in a first-level allowance race when Saratoga opens.