06/06/2010 11:00PM

Stakes winners look for old form


Three stakes winners during the 2009 season who have yet to regain their best form this year will attempt to regroup in Monday's featured ninth race at Colonial Downs.

The 5 1/2-furlong sprint, one of seven grass races on a 10-race card that begins at 4 p.m. Eastern, is an optional $40,000 claimer with multiple allowance conditions. It drew eight older horses, but True to Tradition, a Grade 2 winner in 2008, instead ran Saturday in the $100,000 Wolf Hill Stakes at Monmouth Park, where he finished second.

The race is an ideal opportunity for Hesa Big Star, Natural Seven, and St John's Gospel to rebuild some confidence after a series of losses.

The 8-year-old Hesa Big Star, from the high-percentage barn of Howard Wolfendale, won back-to-back runnings of the Dream Big Stakes at Atlantic City in 2008 and 2009, but has lost seven straight since taking that turf sprint for the second time in May 2009. In two starts this year, Hesa Big Star finished third in his bid for a three-peat in the Dream Big and was third again, while regressing 10 points on the Beyer Speed Figure scale, when dropped down to the lowest level of his 37-race career for a $32,000 tag at Penn National.

Natural Star, a 6-year-old trained by Ben Feliciano Jr., came from far back to win the Maryland Million Turf Sprint last September, the same race in which he missed by a nose in 2008. He has lost three subsequent starts, but encountered traffic trouble in his two races this year and may only need a clean trip to improve enough to win in this spot.

St John's Gospel, who won the Pennsylvania Nursery at 2 and the Power by Far as a 3-year-old last season, will be making his turf debut. It's also his first start since September and his first start since coming to the barn of Hamilton Smith, a perennial contender for leading trainer honors at Colonial. There is little in the pedigree of St John's Gospel to suggest that he will adapt well to turf. Neither of his two siblings ever raced on grass. His sire, Activist, also was unraced on turf.

In his lone start on a synthetic surface, which often indicates how a horse will handle turf, St John's Gospel recorded a 47 Beyer, the lowest of his 11-race career, while sprinting on Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs. He comes into 2010 on a four-race losing streak.