07/30/2008 11:00PM

Old pros line up to challenge favorite


The old-timers are rising up at Suffolk Downs. You've got the 7-year-old Whitney Handicap winner Commentator pointing to next month's Massachusetts Handicap, and now three 9-year-olds are entered in Saturday's $50,000 Old Ironsides Stakes.

When the race was last held in 2005 it produced a Breeders' Cup winner and Eclipse Award champion. It's hard to expect the same Saturday, but then again, not many knew what Miesque's Approval would become when he took the 1 1/16-mile turf race in 2005.

Gran Cesare, the 2004 winner, is back as one of the three runners still going strong at age 9, along with Canyon's Way and O'Malley. Gran Cesare is owned by Namcook Stable, whose principles include Joe O'Donnell, a member of Suffolk's board. The gelding exits a claiming victory at Philadelphia Park.

Nergal, a winner in France before taking two of his last three starts in the United States for trainer Christophe Clement, should be favored. The gelding returned from a yearlong layoff to win an allowance at Delaware Park June 25.

Canyon's Way, who was second to Miesque's Approval in 2005, is looking for his first win as a 9-year-old. He was fifth in his last start, returning to Suffolk after a four-month break

Rain is in the forecast, so owner/trainer Chris Pitrone is confident O'Malley will make his 104th career start on either track despite being on the also-eligible list. He credits a Eurocizer treadmill and the way he spoils the only horse in his stable for his four in-the-money performances at Suffolk this year.

"He's probably got the deepest bed of shavings of any horse at Suffolk," said Pitrone. "The Eurocizer lets him get out there every day without a rider bouncing on his back. He shows no signs of quitting right now."