06/18/2004 12:00AM

River: Rare route for Ben's Reflection


Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in the case of the Sydney Gendelman Handicap at River Downs, the absence of reigning Ohio horse of the year Devil Time is welcome relief for the rest of the Ohio-bred fraternity.

With Devil Time passing on a title defense in the $45,000 Gendelman, scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on turf, favoritism may go, surprisingly, to one of Ohio's best sprinters, Ben's Reflection.

A winner in 6 of 10 career starts, including two stakes, Ben's Reflection will be stretching out for only the third time in his career. His first attempt resulted in his only unplaced effort, but in his second try he finished second in the nine-furlong Cleveland Gold Cup.

"I have no reason to doubt he will handle the two turns," said trainer Mike Nance. "He's got good air."

Nance noted that in Ben's Reflection's first two-turn defeat, he was ahead by a wide margin turning for home, but lost focus in the stretch and hit the rail.

Bettors looking for alternatives have a wide variety of choices. Fax a Freddy's only loss in five starts over the River Downs turf occurred in his seasonal debut on May 8, and even then the margin was only a half-length. A recent midpack finish over the dirt at Churchill should not diminish the chances of Fax a Freddy, the 2001 Gendelman winner.

A switch from the turf to the main track, a frequent occurrence at River the past several weeks, cannot be ruled out. Brent's Challenger and Brent's Victory, nominally dirt performers, have enjoyed success in their limited exposure to turf racing and figure regardless of surface.

One colt perhaps hoping for a complete washout is Casino Red, a rapidly improving 4-year-old exiting an entry-level allowance win at Churchill, where he earned a 92 Beyer.

The only 3-year-old in the field, Floater, is a four-time stakes winner, but he had to work to grind out a win in the Green Carpet Stakes last month, earning a modest 66 Beyer.