04/24/2002 11:00PM

Talent deep in Fort Marcy


JAMAICA, N.Y. - Sharp Performance, who has shown an abundance of talent in only six career starts, makes his 4-year-old debut in Saturday's $100,000-added, Grade 3 Fort Marcy Handicap at Aqueduct.

The 1 1/16-mile Fort Marcy, which drew a competitive field of 10 male turf runners, is the first grass stakes of the year in New York. Country Be Gold and Reef Chief are entered main-track only.

The Fort Marcy is a launching pad for several stakes winners coming off layoffs, including Dr. Kasknikow, who carries 117 pounds as the Fort Marcy co-highweight with Sharp Performance. Unraced since winning the Grade 3 River City at Churchill in November, Dr. Kashnikow is one of only two horses in the field with wins over Aqueduct's turf course.

Also in the lineup are stakes winners Proud Man and Strategic Partner. Proud Man, a winner of four stakes last year, makes his first start for trainer Christophe Clement, who has saddled two winners of the Fort Marcy.

The horse to beat is Sharp Performance, a winner of four of six starts in 2001, including the Lexington and Lawrence Realization. Between those Grade 3 wins, Sharp Performance, who is owned by William Bloom and John Behrendt, finished a good third in the Grade 1 Secretariat over a yielding course at Arlington.

Sharp Performance's familiarity with a soft course could come in handy on Saturday since the turf has been listed as yielding all week and more rain fell on Thursday.

Donk, who is using the Fort Marcy as a springboard to the $400,000 Manhattan on June 8, had hoped to run Sharp Performance once in Florida during the winter, but lost time with the Kris S. colt when he spiked a fever.

"You know the old adage, 'He doesn't have to win first time,' but I still think they have him to beat," Donk said. "His class and style should give him the opportunity to win."

John Velazquez rides Sharp Performance, who has tactical speed, from post 10.

Strategic Partner, who won the Grade 3 Crown Royal American Turf on Derby Day a year ago, makes his 4-year-old debut for trainer Mark Hennig.

"He's a lot more aggressive this year," Hennig said. "He was always so passive in his training, almost like a filly. He's been ready to run for a while and should be plenty fit."

I'm All Yours, a New York-bred turf champion, steps up in company but is a legitimate threat based on his 3-for-3 record over Aqueduct's turf.

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