02/10/2009 1:00AM

Stakes-level gathering for mile run


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - At first glance, the conditions for Thursday's $48,000 allowance feature at Gulfstream read like any other high-priced, four-other-than optional claiming and allowance race. But the added line that also opens the one-mile event to horses "which have not won a race other than maiden, claiming, or starter in 2009" makes it a whole other animal.

Under those conditions, even the Horse of the Year, Curlin, would be eligible for the race. Curlin won't be in the lineup, but among the horses who did take advantage of that final clause in the conditions are Bribon, Fearless Vision, and Cuba, who head an outstanding field that also includes Forefathers, Wicked Style, Fancy Runner, and It's Never to Late.

Bribon won a four-other-than, $100,000 optional claimer going a mile by better than five lengths as a prelude to his third-place finish in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last fall in New York. But a disappointing 10th-place finish in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope here on opening day has trainer Bob Ribaudo not sure what to expect on Thursday.

"It's a great spot to get him back on track, and a situation in which we're supposed to have a lot of confidence," said Ribaudo. "But it's hard to have a lot of confidence the way he's run over this track the last two years. He's certainly doing good enough, so we'll see how he does, and if he runs below expectations again we'll fold up on him until we go back to New York."

Fearless Vision finished fifth in the Hal's Hope after bobbling on the turn and making a big run at the leaders in early stretch. He, too, won a four-other-than, $100,000 optional claimer going a mile at Aqueduct in his 2008 finale, on Dec. 5.

Cuba rallied from last to finish seventh in the Hal's Hope but rebounded to win a $25,000 starter allowance two weeks later for his fourth win in six starts at Gulfstream. Cuba won seven races, including two stakes, in 2008.

Forefathers is back with trainer Nick Zito after spending all of last season and the last third of 2007 with Bill Mott. Forefathers has faced graded stakes company in 5 of his last 6 starts, with his lone venture into the allowance ranks during that period resulting in an easy second-level allowance win going a mile at Belmont Park in early June.