07/02/2002 12:00AM

Is six furlongs too far for Best of Duck?

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Six runners have stepped up to oppose swift Best of the Duck in Thursday's $60,000 WKBW-TV Parnitha Stakes at Fort Erie. The six-furlong sprint is for Canadian-foaled horses that have had at least two starts at the meeting.

"They have been ducking the Duck. It's been two months to the day when he runs Thursday," said assistant trainer Carl Norris, husband of the Duck's trainer, Myckie Neubauer. "They wouldn't enter against him and the races wouldn't fill."

In his four 2002 starts, Best of the Duck has scored twice, once at Woodbine and once at Fort Erie. The 6-year-old gelding had, also, a second and a third. All were at five furlongs.

Last year the Duck had five victories - three at two furlongs, one at 5 1/2, and one at six. He was unbeaten at a quarter of a mile.

"Best of the Duck is proven at the shorter distances," said Norris. "I've never considered him a superior runner going six furlongs. I hope we can stretch him out a little bit."

On June 23, Best of the Duck worked six furlongs in 1:11.20. Last Sunday, he did three furlongs in a bullet 34.60 seconds. "It was the fastest my exercise rider had ever gone," Norris remarked.

Last Saturday Neartic Ice, Best of the Duck's main opponent, had an identical three-furlong move. Neartic Ice is a 5-year-old owned and bred by Roy Russell. He's by an obscure sire, King Neartic, who stands for $750.

Neartic Ice beat Best of the Duck by a neck on opening day at the Fort. He was stretched out to 6 1/2 furlongs a month later and finished last of eight after dueling for the early lead. On June 16 he was stretched farther - 1 1/16 miles - and turned in a very game performance, missing by a nose.

Trainer Armand Concessi will saddle a two-horse entry, R.J.'s Game and Zuckabarr.

"They are both running because I think both have a shot," said Concessi. "R J's Game is the better horse. He's been against tougher opposition. Zuckabarr has been getting better all the time."

Completing the field are Cherokee Dawn, Mr. Demolition, and Rots Ruckus.

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