10/18/2012 2:31PM

Parx Racing: Tune Me In's status key to First Responder Stakes

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Bill Denver/Equi-Photo
Tune Me In stands out in the First Responder Stakes, if he runs.

With a pair of Grade 3 stakes wins on his résumé since July, Tune Me In clearly owns a class advantage in Saturday’s $75,000 First Responder Stakes at Parx Racing. The question is whether he will show up and be able to run effectively on short rest.

The 5-year-old Tune Me In would be coming back just one week after finishing third in the Grade 3 Knickerbocker at Belmont Park if trainer Bruce Alexander decides to ship in from New Jersey for the 1 1/16-mile turf race at Parx. Tune Me In’s races are usually spaced about a month apart, and Alexander has had only limited success (1 for 6) with route runners coming back in seven days or less.

If Tune Me In stays home, the First Responder becomes a much tougher puzzle for handicappers. Among the remaining 11 entrants, Exclusive Strike and Sleepless Knight own the best turf credentials.

The 5-year-old Exclusive Strike, 10 for 26 lifetime on turf, has won three of his last four starts, but has yet to compete at a level higher than a first-level allowance. He has been off since taking back-to-back $16,000 starter allowance races at Monmouth Park in July and August. The last time he came off a similar layoff, Exclusve Strike scored by 4 1/2 lengths to clear his first allowance condition.

Sleepless Knight is far less consistent, winning just 1 of 16 starts the past two seasons and 4 of 22 overall. But he fits on class. He was second, beaten a half-length, in both the Da Hoss at Colonial Downs and the 2011 running of the Knickerbocker.

Statistically, trainer Kelly Breen is a weak 3 for 34 with turf routers returning after a break of 31 to 60 days, including an 0-for-7 record by Sleepless Knight. That number is somewhat misleading, since Sleepless Knight finished second on four occasions in that sampling, with all four losses by three-quarters of a length or less.

Nibiru’s Return may be a live longshot. Although winless in three tries on turf and listed at 20-1 on the track’s morning line, Nibiru’s Return rallied to finish fourth of 10, beaten lesss than four lengths, in the $250,000 Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen Association President’s Cup last time out. Hello Lover, who finished a distant seventh that day and is entered in the First Responder, returned to win back-to-back starts on dirt with Beyer Speed Figures of 96 and 97.