11/23/2010 5:26PM

Ryan's luck can turn with Musket Man in Cigar Mile

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Trainer Derek Ryan has only one victory from 32 stakes starters this year, but he knows he is only a few body parts away from having a career year.

“It was one of those years,” Ryan said Tuesday from Monmouth Park. “It was a good year − it could have been great.”

One of the most excruciating defeats for Ryan came in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap at Aqueduct, where his Musket Man was beaten a nose by Warrior’s Reward. That loss came about three weeks after Schoolyard Dreams was beaten a nose by Odysseus in the Tampa Bay Derby.

“The Carter and the Tampa Bay Derby, it couldn’t get any worse than that,” said Ryan, who ranked Musket Man’s neck loss to Etched in the Monmouth Cup pretty high on the disappointment scale.

Saturday, Ryan hopes to erase all the bad memories when he brings Musket Man to Aqueduct for the Grade 1, $250,000 Hill ’n’ Dale Cigar Mile. Musket Man is running back three weeks after he finished seventh, 10 lengths behind Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. It was the first time in 15 career starts that Musket Man finished worse than third.

“He actually got chopped into pretty good from behind on the first turn, lost his momentum a little bit,” Ryan said. “He got hit from the top of his hock all the way down. The vet said, ‘You got lucky, if we [allowed] toe grabs you’d be in a little trouble.’ ”

Ryan meant that if the horse who hit Musket Man was permitted to wear toe grabs, Musket Man could have suffered serious injuries. As it was, Ryan said he felt Musket Man came out of the Breeders’ Cup in good order. On Tuesday, Ryan said Musket Man blew out three furlongs in 36.40 seconds at Monmouth Park.

Musket Man, who finished third in the 2009 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, has run well in one-turn and two-turn races. His lone win this year came in the seven-furlong Super Stakes at Tampa. One of Musket Man’s best races came in the Metropolitan Handicap, a one-turn mile race at Belmont, where he finished second to Quality Road.

Ryan said Musket Man would definitely come back to run in 2011 as a 5-year-old and most likely be pointed to one-turn races such as the Carter and Met Mile.

Musket Man, assigned 117 pounds, is one of 10 horses expected for the Cigar Mile. Others expected to run include Girolamo (120 pounds), Haynesfield (120), Bribon (119), Vineyard Haven (119), Friend or Foe (115), Half Metal Jacket (115), Noble’s Promise (115), Jersey Town (114), and Soaring Empire (114).

Albertrani targets Gazelle, Remsen

Two of trainer Tom Albertrani’s charges will have to answer questions regarding two turns and distance Saturday in a pair of graded stakes.

Albertrani plans to run Belle of Hall in the Grade 1, $250,000 Gazelle at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-old fillies and Buffum in the Grade 2, $200,000 Remsen for 2-year-old colts and geldings. Both races are run at 1 1/8 miles around two turns.

Belle of the Hall, a daughter of Graeme Hall, has won 4 of 6 starts but has never raced beyond seven furlongs. She did race around two turns in the Charles Town Oaks but finished last of nine as the even-money favorite. She bounced back to win the Catinca Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs at Belmont on Oct. 27. Belle of the Hall worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 Tuesday morning over Belmont’s main track.

“We couldn’t figure out why she ran as poorly as she did at Charles Town, but she came out of that race good and trained fine after that, and she came back with a win in that overnight stakes,” Albertrani said. “She worked well this morning, so we’ll give her another try and then see how she does and go from there.”

Albertrani said he felt the late run Belle of the Hall showed when third in the Grade 1 Test at seven furlongs at Saratoga indicated she could handle longer distances.

In Buffum, Albertrani has a promising 2-year-old prospect who won his debut by a nose going a one-turn mile at Belmont on Oct. 30. Buffum, who brought $1.2 million as a yearling, is a son of the hot freshman sire Bernardini, whom Albertrani trained to win the 2006 Preakness and Travers.

“He was very impressive in his maiden race,” Albertrani said of Buffum, who is owned by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable. “We liked what we saw that day. It’s a big jump up, but at this time of year we’ve got to make some decisions and see where we stand with him.”

Asked to compare Buffum to Bernardini, Albertani said, “He’s a little bit on the smaller side, but he’s got that same athletic ability that Bernardini showed us.”

In the Remsen, Buffum will be face another son of Bernardini, To Honor and Serve, who is 2 for 3, including a front-running, four-length score in the Grade 2 Nashua.

One horse who will not be running in the Remsen is Curlinello, who suffered a fractured cannon bone and is convalescing on owner Edward P. Evans’ Spring Hill Farm in Virginia, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

Stud Muffin back in Tinchen’s Prince

Stud Muffin, winner of the 2008 Empire Classic, returns from a nine-month layoff in Thursday’s $60,000 Tinchen’s Prince Stakes for New York-breds at a mile.

Stud Muffin is making his first start for new trainer Tom Bush and first as a gelding. He had previously been trained by David Duggan.

Bush said he received Stud Muffin about five months ago and that he immediately sent Stud Muffin to the farm for a freshening. Stud Muffin returned to his care in early September and has benefitted from the time and from being gelded.

“He was a heavy, heavy horse and pretty difficult to handle,” Bush said. “He’s lightened up and is a lighter-framed horse. Looking at him, he looks pretty fit, but on dirt they tend to need one. He is very enthusiastic and sharp in his training.”

The field includes six horses who finished behind Friend or Foe in the Empire Classic on Oct. 23. Icabad Crane was second in the Empire Classic after leaping at the start and trailing the field through the first half-mile. Wishful Tomcat was third in the Empire Classic, his first loss against New York-breds in two years.