08/19/2005 12:00AM

Small stakes lures two top-shelf horses


MIAMI - A $40,000 overnight stakes for 3-year-olds in the middle of the summer at Calder is not supposed to draw a multiple graded stakes-placed horse and a member of the field from the Preakness Stakes. But that will be the case on Sunday when B. B. Best and Hal's Image face six rivals going a mile under allowance conditions in the American Dreamer Stakes.

B. B. Best will be making his first start since finishing sixth as the favorite in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Withers on April 30. In his previous two appearances, B. B, Best finished third behind High Fly in both the Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. As a 2-year-old, B. B. Best won two of the three legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes, missing a sweep when he finished a tiring third behind Cin Cin in the seven-furlong Affirmed.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. decided to give B. B. Best a break after the Withers, during which time the 3-year-old son of Yes It's True underwent surgery to remove a testicle that had failed to descend completely.

"He had a tough campaign up to that point so I wanted to give him some rest and took the opportunity at the same time to have the testicle removed since it seemed to have been causing some irritation ," said Plesa, who trains B. B. Best for Beatrice Oxenberg and his wife, Laurie Plesa. "He has trained better than he ever has since he has been back."

Barry Rose, who trains Hal's Image for the Rose Family Stable, said he was a bit disappointed but not surprised to see B. B. Best in the American Dreamer lineup.

"I knew he was here and back in training so I figured he might show up in this spot," said Rose. "Of course, you never expect a horse of his caliber in an overnight stakes such as this, which only means it will be a pretty good test for our horse to see where he stands right now."

Hal's Image earned himself a trip to the Preakness with a game victory in the Unbridled Stakes here early this spring. But Hal's Image is still seeking his first victory since being overmatched in Baltimore, where he finished a distant 11th in the Preakness behind the winner, Afleet Alex. He has since finished second as the 3-5 favorite under second-level allowance conditions, a tiring seventh in the Ohio Derby, and a well beaten 11th making his turf debut in The Vid Stakes on July 31.

"His last start was just an experiment to see if he liked the grass and that obviously didn't work out," said Rose. "So we will just toss that one out and hope he can come back to his best form on Sunday."

The connections of Cin Cin and Dazzling Dr. Cevin should have no problem with taking on B. B. Best after their horses faced an even more formidable foe, the undefeated Lost in the Fog, in the Carry Back Stakes on July 10.

Cin Cin showed early foot, then faded to be fourth in the Carry Back, finishing a half-length in front of Dazzling Dr. Cevin while making just his second start of the season. The pair had also hooked up four weeks earlier in the Valid Video Stakes on a sloppy track, with Dazzling Dr. Cevin getting up in the final strides to score a neck decision.

The American Dreamer will also be the rubber match between Cin Cin and B. B. Best, the two horses having split two matchups as 2-year-olds. Cin Cin scored an easy victory in the Affirmed and then B. B. Best avenged his loss there with a wire-to-wire triumph in the In Realty Stakes.