01/18/2005 12:00AM

Primary Suspect edge at gate

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - First Blush and Primary Suspect are the two most likely winners of Thursday's $37,000 feature at Gulfstream Park. But if the prevailing track bias that influenced the outcome of so many races here last week still exists, separating the two main contenders in the 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming and allowance dash should be only a small problem.

Horses racing on or near the rail were at a distinct disadvantage much of the second week of the meeting, while horses farther out in the track had the greatest success. That trend would give Primary Suspect, who breaks from post 8 in the nine-horse field, an edge over First Blush who starts from post 1.

looks best with or without a bias, as long as the track is fast. A 4-year-old, he did not begin his career until July of his 3-year-old campaign but was an immediate sensation, earning a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in winning his debut by 10 3/4 lengths at Monmouth Park. In five subsequent starts, Primary Suspect has two other victories, in entry and second-level allowance conditions, while earning Beyers of 105 and 107 for those performances.

Primary Suspect's two sub-par efforts came on sloppy tracks. He finished a troubled third at seven furlongs versus winners the first time in August and was no factor on a wet track in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight to end his 2004 campaign.

Trained by Mark Hennig, Primary Suspect has worked steadily since arriving at Gulfstream in December. Jerry Bailey will ride.

First Blush also has multiple triple-digit Beyer Figure races on his r?sum?. The latest came in his 2004 finale at Aqueduct when he withstood a race-long pace battle to win a game neck decision under similar conditions as Thursday's race. He is eligible for the race because trainer Allen Jerkens entered him under a $75,000 claiming tag.

, who ran third in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap last year, figures to get challenged early by Our Wildcat, with Primary Suspect likely to get a perfect stalking trip from his outside post.

Horses with perhaps the best chance of upsetting the logical choices are Love That Moon, Nightmare Affair, and Wacky for Love.

appeared to be rounding back to top form with an easy overnight stakes victory at Calder on Oct. 3, and a strong third-place effort effort behind Weigelia in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap five weeks later. But the stretch-running gelding tailed off in his last two starts of 2004.

Nightmare Affair would benefit from an outside, closer-favoring racetrack, and figures to be finishing fastest of all.

Wacky of Love was stakes-placed in his only two starts here last winter.