06/15/2009 11:00PM

Sing Baby Sing near comeback for hot stable

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GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Tom Durant and trainer Jack Bruner are in the midst of one of their strongest meets ever at Lone Star Park, and the best horse in the barn hasn't run yet. Sing Baby Sing, who last year was a troubled sixth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, is about a month away from racing and has a longterm goal of returning to the $2 million championship race this November at Santa Anita.

"You always want to get back to the Breeders' Cup," Bruner said. "Once you've been, you want to get back. If he'll show that he can, I'd like to try it."

Durant leads the Lone Star owner standings with 19 wins from 60 starts - 10 more wins than runner-up Frontier Stables. He is seeking his fifth local Thoroughbred title, and last year locked up the top spot with 17 wins. Durant has 50 horses at Lone Star.

"We've been trying pretty hard all winter to get geared up for this meet," said Bruner, a private trainer for Durant. "We stayed here and trained after Remington. We came here in mid-December. Fresh horses, young horses that never started, that's been key. Lots of conditions."

Bruner is fifth in the trainer standings and has been winning races at a 31 percent clip. He estimates that all but five horses in the barn are homebreds, and said Durant's wife, Susan, has played a key role in operations. She is based at the couple's breeding farm in Granbury, Texas.

"We're trying to prove studs, trying to prove mares," said Bruner.

Durant stands Touch Tone, City Street, and Supreme Cat, and two of the studs have had stakes winners at the meet, including City Tone. A daughter of City Street, she won the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes in May and could start next in the Lone Star Park Oaks, said Bruner.

Sing Baby Sing, now 6, won the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland last fall before breaking next to last in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Since the race, he has had a small bone chip removed from an ankle. Sing Baby Sing is now working forwardly for his first start since the Breeders' Cup.

"I really felt like he liked the synthetics, and that's a reason I wanted to try it one more time," Bruner said of the Sprint, which will be run on Pro-Ride. "So, we'll see."

Sing Baby Sing could make his first stakes start of the year at Remington, in the $200,000 Sprint Cup on Aug. 22, or at Zia, in the $100,000 Premiere on Sept. 13.

Other stakes performers for the barn include No Other Tone, who will start as a top contender in Thursday night's eighth, a $30,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs. The race could propel her back into the stakes ranks, for the $50,000 Valor Farm here July 11. No Other Tone was fifth in the $100,000 Valid Expectations in her last start, May 25. She will break from post 4.

"I like her best laying right off of them," said Bruner, who has given the mount to Chris Landeros.

Durant bred No Other Tone, who is out of his stakes-winning mare No Other Name.

Escobar might miss Thursday

Jockey Martin Escobar escaped serious injury last Saturday when Upstream, his mount in the $50,000 Carter McGregor Jr. Stakes, fell at the top of the stretch and threw him. The rider sustained no head trauma or broken bones, according to his agent, Kevin Johnson.

"Overall, big picture, he's fine," Johnson said Tuesday. "That being said, he's experiencing a lot of soreness. I would say he would be questionable for Thursday. Hopefully, he'll be back up for Friday, but maybe Thursday."

* There were seven winning favorites on the nine-race card Sunday, pushing the win rate of chalk this meet to 42 percent. The first five races were won by odds-on choices.