10/09/2002 11:00PM

Spend a Buck regulars return

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MIAMI - Best of the Rest, who has dominated the local handicap division over his home track for the past several seasons, will attempt to continue his reign Saturday as the 121-pound highweight and likely favorite in the $100,000 Spend a Buck Handicap at Calder.

Best of the Rest defeated Dancing Guy to win both the 1999 and 2001 runnings of the Spend a Buck. The pair will match strides once again Saturday while joined by Sir Bear, High Ideal, Sea of Tranquility, Junior Deputy, Pay the Preacher, and Built Up.

Best of the Rest missed the 2000 Spend a Buck because of one of the many knee injuries that has limited him to just 23 starts since his career debut in 1997. But when healthy he has been nearly invincible at Calder, where he has captured 11 races and finished off the board just once in 17 starts.

The 1 1/16-mile Spend a Buck will be Best of the Rest's first appearance since he finished seventh in the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows on July 6.

"Even though he had a bad trip in the Cornhusker, I couldn't take him out of town again off that race," said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. "And there really was nothing for him here so I decided to give him a little break, which marks the first time he's gotten any time off when not recuperating from one of his injuries."

Best of the Rest has trained well for his return, including a one-mile breeze in 1:44.40 last Saturday.

Eibar Coa guided Best of the Rest to each of his last two Spend a Buck victories but Plesa selected Jerry Bailey to fill the assignment on Saturday.

Coa instead will get back aboard Sir Bear, who finished third to Best of the Rest as the 8-5 favorite in the 2001 Spend a Buck.

A three-time Grade 1 winner outside of Calder, Sir Bear has only won 2 of 10 starts over his home base and is coming off a two-length setback in the My Mac Handicap. Trainer Ralph Ziadie now expects vast improvement.

"He really needed his last race, I didn't train him too hard for that one," said Ziadie. "And he finally gets a little weight off this time."

High Ideal, beaten a half-length by Best of the Rest in the Memorial Day Handicap, may be the one to beat coming off his recent victory in the My Mac.

"He had some foot problems this summer but he's doing good and I think he's a better horse now than he was when he finished second to Best of the Rest earlier in the year," said trainer Marty Wolfson.