03/14/2008 11:00PM

Pace may benefit Cognac Kisses


Cognac Kisses does not sport the resume that many of his rivals entered for Tuesday's $75,000 Bensalem Stakes at Philadelphia Park do, but he does appear to have the running style to topple his more accomplished foes.

A field of eight was entered for the Bensalem, contested at 6 1/2 furlongs, which headlines a pretty decent 10-race card at Philly on Tuesday that begins at 12:25 p.m.

There appears to be a ton of speed in the Bensalem, with the likes of Banjo Picker, Taurus, Forest Park, and Gold and Roses in the field. Two starts back, Cognac Kisses raced on the lead when finishing second to Ah Day in the Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Park.

Last out, however, Cognac Kisses came from off the pace to win an optional claiming race at Laurel, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 100.

"He's really stepped his game up the last couple of races," trainer Scott Lake said. "He can come from off the pace, he can do whatever you want. He's turned into a nice horse to deal with. We'll let the pace dictate how he runs."

Abel Castellano rides Cognac Kisses from post 2.

Banjo Picker, a multiple-stakes-winning 8-year-old gelding, looks to possess the most early speed in the field. Banjo Picker has won 14 of 38 starts, including 12 of 30 at Philadelphia. He has won his last two races over this strip, including a restricted stakes on Jan. 26.

"Seems like he's the best he's ever been right now," said trainer Steve Krebs, who claimed Banjo Picker for $15,000 in summer 2004. "I didn't like too much drawing the one hole, you got to gun out of there a little bit. I wouldn't mind seeing him sit off of it, if they're going too fast."

The multiple stakes winning New York-bred Gold and Roses is coming off a three-quarter-length score in the Hollie Hughes Handicap at Aqueduct on Feb. 16. Trainer Tom Bush opted to skip the Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap at Aqueduct last weekend, hoping this race would come up a little easier than it did.

"He's done super, I'm real pleased with him," Bush said. "His energy is really up there, he's got a great coat on him for the winter. I think we're in pretty good shape."

Rajiv Maragh will ride Gold and Roses from post 8.

External Star, who comes off a third-level allowance win at Laurel on Feb. 8, and Master of Disaster, third to Banjo Picker last Dec 15, are other contenders in this field.