04/11/2002 11:00PM

Strawberry Kid formidable threat

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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. - Six of the nine starters in Saturday's male division of the $30,000 Fonner Park Special Stakes for 3-year-old Nebraska-breds were stakes winners or stakes-placed last year. The three horses who started their careers this year, however, appear to be the strongest contenders.

Many of the runners who had local stakes success in their juvenile campaigns have yet to regain their good form this season, which opens the door for three relative newcomers, a group headed by Strawberry Kid.

Strawberry Kid won his maiden by more than five lengths at first asking in February. He returned March 16 in the Baxter Stakes, where he was second to three-time winner Tonight Rainbow. Strawberry Kid rebounded from that defeat with a nine-length romp over statebred allowance rivals last weekend.

He appears to be the best of the statebred 3-year-olds at the meet and should be heavily favored to register his first stakes victory. Strawberry Kid breaks from post 6 with Perry Compton.

Grand Island also won his maiden in his career debut on March 15. He next faced Strawberry Kid last week and they raced head-and-head for a half-mile. Grand Island continued on to be a clear second but will need improvement to turn the tables on Strawberry Kid. Fernando Rojas has the ride from post 1.

Grand Island will race as part of a three-horse entry for trainer Marv Johnson, along with Bengal Boy and C. C. Diamond.

Wally Bengal made his racing debut in March when fifth to Grand Island but came back with a 6 3/4-length win on March 28 in his second start. Don Frazier rides from post 2.

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