09/28/2008 12:00AM

Stalingrad a nice fit in Kelso


ELMONT, N.Y. - Normally viewed as a prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile, the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap this year just seems like a nice spot for one of six horses to win a graded stakes.

At least that's the way trainer Mike Hushion is looking at it with Stalingrad, who enters Sunday's $250,000 Kelso off a good second to Red Giant in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga eight weeks ago.

"This is the race we picked a while ago," said Hushion, who trains Stalingrad for Barry Schwartz. "We thought this would fit him real good. I just want to be in the right spot at the right time. I'm hoping Sunday is that."

Hushion said Stalingrad would have to be "super-impressive" Sunday to go on to the BC Mile. With one exception, Stalingrad has been very consistent on turf. Stalingrad's lone bad race was in the Grade 1 Manhattan, when he was too rank early and finished last.

In the Fourstardave, Stalingrad rated nicely under Channing Hill and struck the front in upper stretch, only to be run down in the final two jumps by Red Giant, who was scheduled to run in Saturday's Clement L. Hirsch Memorial at Santa Anita.

"I thought it was a big race, I thought he was ready for anything coming off that," Hushion said. "I was pretty excited for the Manhattan; we had some glitches going into it. He's impressed me more than once; I think he's a pretty solid turf horse."

The Fourstardave was run over yielding ground, so a less-than-firm turf course shouldn't be a problem for Stalingrad, who could play out as the main speed.

Tam Lin and Operation Red Dawn finished second and third behind Kip Deville in the Poker Handicap here in July. Following that race, Tam Lin went up to Canada and finished ninth in the Grade 2 Play the King. Assistant trainer Rick Mettee, who oversees Godolphin Racing's New York runners, noted that Tam Lin was a bit rank that day. Mettee said a similar thing happened to Tam Lin at Tampa Bay Downs in March and hopes it's simply a case of a horse "that's not good to ship and run," he said.

Javier Castellano, aboard for Tam Lin's lone win in this country, is back Sunday.

Operation Red Dawn, third in the Bernard Baruch, excels at a mile and at Belmont. Giant Wrecker seeks to end an 11-race losing streak. Media Play, who is cross-entered in Saturday's Robert F. Carey Memorial at Hawthorne, and Forefathers complete the field.