10/29/2008 11:00PM

State Rep provides contrast


One weekend you're taking a swing at a $2 million purse alongside Hollywood celebrities. The next week you've got a shot at a fat purse in a statebred stakes race with a horse making a career debut.

That's the seven-day swing facing owner Walter Downey and his Tea Party Stable. After having Fabulous Strike finish fifth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint last Saturday, Downey has State Rep going in the $50,000 Norman Hall Stakes for Massachusetts-bred 2-year-olds this Saturday at Suffolk Downs.

It's the first stakes for 2-year-olds this year at Suffolk, and all 10 entrants are maidens.

"Last week, while I was squandering away millions at Santa Anita, I had a winner in a $4,000 claimer at Suffolk," said Downey. "It couldn't be more different and still be part of the same game."

Downey wouldn't trade the experience in California despite the disappointing result. Fabulous Strike made it to the Sprint after finishing second to Black Seventeen in the Vosburgh at Belmont on Sept. 27. Fabulous Strike won that race in 2007 but missed the Breeders' Cup with a lung infection. Downey and trainer Todd Beattie were determined to get there this time, only to have Fabulous Strike show his dislike for the artificial Pro-Ride surface.

"It was a very deep field for a sprint, and he just had a tough time handling the track," said Downey. "I was very happy to get fifth, but all in all, the experience was terrific. The track is beautiful. I just wish the race could have been on dirt."

No worries there for State Rep, who has been working steadily for his debut, according to Downey's Boston trainer George Saccardo.

"Opportunities like this don't come around all the time," said Saccardo. "It's unusual to get a $50,000 maiden race for horses like him. He's had a series of works and has been fairly well prepped. We won't see this too often, and we're hoping we can grab a share of the big purse."

Fabulous Strike made $50,000 for finishing fifth last week. The entire field of the Norman Hall has earned $9,612.

The horse best bred for success in the Norman Hall is Beenalong Dream, who has lost his four races by a combined 103 lengths. His dam, Binalong Rose, won the 1998 Norman Hall and Amelia Peabody in a sweep of the Massachusetts-bred 2-year-old stakes.

Thompson closing in on title

With five days left in the meet, jockey Winston Thompson is on his way to his fifth career riding title. He leads David Amiss by 10 wins entering Saturday. Thompson won three straight titles from 2004 to 2006 before an ankle injury knocked him out of last year's race in August.

Trainer John Rigattieri is on his way to his fifth straight title with a commanding 21-win lead over Marcus Vitali.

* Suffolk will hold the Phantom Gourmet Beer and Food Phest next Saturday, closing day. The 11-hour party will feature two radio broadcasts, a beer hall, karaoke, sumo wrestling, dancing, and a Ms. Beer Phest pageant. The event's title was in place before the Phillies won the World Series this week.