03/23/2009 11:00PM

Sixthirteen faces tough crew

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Mike Hushion is looking forward to getting Sixthirteen to a stakes race sometime this year. He just wasn't thinking it would be this soon.

While Thursday's money allowance feature at Aqueduct is not technically a stakes, it certainly has the look of a graded event, having drawn group or graded winners Joey P., Magical Forest, and the intriguing European shipper Per Incanto.

After reeling off three consecutive victories last summer and fall, Sixthirteen was likely stakes-bound before suffering a popped splint bone in a foreleg. Hushion, who trains Sixthirteen for Barry Schwartz, said "we took our time on purpose" to get him back, saying he was targeting this time of year for a return.

"It's nice to have a fresh horse you didn't beat up too much over the winter tracks," Hushion said.

Sixthirteen returned from a similar layoff last spring and ran a very strong second to Desert Key in a maiden race over Aqueduct's main track. Desert Key would go on to finish second in four stakes, including the Grade 1 King's Bishop at Saratoga.

Sixthirteen, a speedy son of Dixie Union, won his next three races before being sidelined.

"He's a very heavily muscled, strapping horse. He just came around," Hushion said.

Thursday, Sixthirteen will have to deal with the speed of Magic Texan and perhaps Per Incanto, a Grade 2 winner on turf in Great Britain. He has been turned over to Kiaran McLaughlin and trained extremely well in south Florida before shipping here for his first start since last August. He gets Lasix for the first time, and McLaughlin wins at a 24 percent clip in such instances.

"He's a Street Cry who's never been on dirt, which is interesting, Lasix is interesting and he's training very well," said Art Magnuson, McLaughlin's assistant. "We're excited to lead him over there."

Joey P. is an 11-time stakes winner who is closing in on $1 million in earnings. He returned from a six-month layoff March 7 in the Grade 3 Toboggan, in which he finished sixth, beaten only 3 1/2 lengths by Ah Day. With that race under his belt, he figures to be tighter for this.

Showers are forecast for Thursday, and though Joey P. has never won on a wet track, he has four second-place finishes from five off-track starts.

Saint Damon, who ran a superb third in the Toboggan, is 3 for 5 over a wet surface. Magical Forest, who won the Grade 3 Barbaro, will be making his first start since finishing last in the Haskell.