11/06/2009 12:00AM

Sean Avery real tough off his last

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A pair of first-level allowance races at six furlongs, one for open company and one for New York-breds, serve as the bright spots of Sunday's nine-race program at Aqueduct.

The highlight is race 3, a $45,000 dash that attracted a field of eight sprinters, including two entries.

The one to beat is Sean Avery, a highly promising 3-year-old gelding who makes his first start since Woodward Day at Saratoga.

Sidelined for more than a year after running third to dual graded stakes winner Munnings in his debut at the Spa as a 2-year-old, Sean Avery returned at Saratoga 55 weeks later, along with a trainer change to Mike Hushion, and posted a wire-to-wire maiden victory with a Beyer Figure of 92.

On the strength of that performance, Sean Avery was favored in a 14-horse allowance three weeks later, and ran a good third, beaten two lengths, in what has turned out to be the fastest and deepest first-level allowance race on the circuit this year. The fractions for the quarter, half-mile, and six furlongs all were faster than those recorded in the Grade 1 Forego, which was run a race later.

Ventana, who looked to have a bright future after winning his debut at Belmont as a 2-year-old last fall for Bob Baffert, will make his first start back in New York since a last-place finish in the 2008 Champagne Stakes.

Following the Champagne, Ventana was campaigned in a handful of stakes over synthetic tracks on the Southern California circuit with little success, managing a third in the Hollywood Prevue and a fourth in the San Vicente.

Laid off for seven months, Ventana returned in an allowance race at the Meadowlands three weeks ago, and finished second in the slop.

Ventana was nominated to the $65,000 Chief Tamanaco overnight stakes, a race that didn't go for Sunday.

David Jacobson sends out the entry of The Truffle Man and Great Emperor, a pair of older veterans with 42 starts between them.

January Gent and Alma d'Oro are coupled for Rick Dutrow. The New York-bred January Gent has never been worse than second in seven career starts.

Gulf Cat and Todd Got Even, each stepping up after runner-up finishes in claiming sprints, complete the field.